A lecture in San Francisco in the summer of 1877 Col. Ingersoll offered to give $1,000 in gold to any clergyman who would prove that Thomas Paine "died in terror because of religious opinions he had expressed, or that Voltaire did not pass away as serenely as the coming of the dawn." The New York Observer, a Presbyterian paper published in New York, Irenaeus Prime, editor, called upon him to put up the money, characterizing his offer as "infidel buncombe," upon which the following correspondence ensued:
To the Editor of the New York Observer:
I have been informed that you accepted, in your paper, an offer made by me to any clergyman in San Francisco. That offer was that I would pay $1,000 in gold to any minister in that city who would prove that Thomas Paine died in terror because of religious opinions he had expressed, or that Voltaire did not pass away serenely as the coming of the dawn.
For many years religious journals and ministers have been circulating certain pretended account of the frightful agonies endured by Paine and Voltaire when dying; that these great men at the moment of death were terrified because they had given their honest opinions upon the subject of religion to their fellowmen. The imagination of the religious world has been taxed to the utmost in inventing absurd and infamous accounts of the last moments of these intellectual giants. Every Sunday-school paper, thousands of idiotic tracts, and countless stupidities called sermons have been filled with these calumnies. Paine and Voltaire were both believers in God-both hoped for immortality-both believed in special Providence. But both denied the inspiration of the Scriptures both denied the divinity of Jesus Christ. While theologians most cheerfully admit that most murderers die without fear, they deny the possibility of any man who has expressed his disbelief in the inspiration of the Bible dying except in an agony of terror. These stories are used in revivals and in Sunday-schools, and have long been considered of great value.
I am anxious that these slanders should cease. I am desirous of seeing justice done, even at this late day, to the dead.
For the purpose of ascertaining the evidence upon which these deathbed accounts really rest, I make you the following proposition:
First-As to Thomas Paine: I will deposit with the First National Bank of Peoria, Ill., $1,000 in gold upon the following conditions: This money shall be subject to your order when you shall, in the manner hereinafter provided, substantiate that Thomas Paine admitted the Bible to be an inspired book, or that he recanted his infidel opinions-or that he died regretting that he had disbelieved the Bible-or that he died calling upon Jesus in any religious sense whatever.
In order that a tribunal may be created to try this question, you may select one man, I will select another, and the two thus chosen shall select a third, and any two of the three may decade the matter.
As there will be certain costs and expenditures on both sides, such costs and expenditures shall be paid by the defeated party.
In addition to thy $1,000 in gold, I will deposit a bond with good and sufficient security in the sum of $2,000, conditioned for the payment of all costs in case I am defeated. I shall require of you a like bond.
From the date of accepting this offer you may have ninety days in which to collect and present your testimony, giving me notice of time and place of taking depositions. I shall have a like time to take evidence upon my side, giving you like notice, and you shall then have thirty days to take further testimony in reply to what I may offer. The case shall then be argued before the persons chosen; and their decisions shall be final as to us.
If the arbitrator chosen by me shall die I shall have the right to choose another. You shall have the same right. If the third one, chosen by our two, shall die, the two shall choose another; and all vacancies, from whatever cause, shall be filled upon the same principle.
The arbitrators shall sit when and where a majority shall determine, and shall have full power to pass upon all questions arising as to competency of evidence and upon all subjects.
Second-As to Voltaire: I make the same proposition, if you will substantiate that Voltaire died expressing remorse or showing in any way that he was in mental agony because he attacked Catholicism-or because he had denied the inspiration of the Bible--or because he had denied the divinity of Christ.
I make these propositions because I want you people to stop slandering the dead.
If the propositions do not suit you in any particular, please state your objections, and I will modify them in any way consistent with the object in view.
If Paine and Voltaire died filled with childish and silly fear, I want to know it. On the other hand, if the believers in superstition have made and circulated these cruel slanders concerning the mighty dead I want the world to know that.
As soon as you notify me of the acceptance of these propositions, I will send you the certificate of the bank that the money has been deposited upon the foregoing conditions, together with copies of bonds for costs.
Yours truly, R. G. INGERSOLL.
From the New York Observer of Sept. 27,1877.
We have received a copy of a printed letter, addressed "To the Editor of the New York Observer," signed Robert G. Ingersoll-we presume -referring to a paragraph published some weeks since in the Observer, in which we offered to produce the evidence that Tom Paine died a drunken, cowardly and beastly death." The letter, after complaining in an exaggerated style that Paine and Voltaire have been grossly slandered, and that "for many years religious journals and ministers have been circulating certain pretended accounts of the frightful agonies endured by Paine and Voltaire when dying," etc., proposes to establish a court of arbitration to consider certain propositions in regard to the deaths of Paine and Voltaire. The letter further proposes that we shall have ninety days in which to collect and present the testimony in the affirmative of these propositions; the respondent to have ninety days to present the evidence on the other side; the affirmative then to have thirty days more for producing further testimony, the case then to be argued before this court, whose decision shall be final to us.
As not one of the affirmations, in the form stated in this letter, was contained in the offer that be made, we have no occasion to substantiate them. But we are prepared to produce the evidence of the truth of our own statement, and even go farther; to show not only "that Tom Paine died a drunken, cowardly and beastly death," but that for many years previous and up to that event he lived a drunken and beastly life.
And we are the more impelled to do this because we have received within the last few months numerous letters asking information and facts in regard to the character and habits of Paine. These letters have come chiefly from the West, where infidels appear to be making a desperate effort to rescue his name from the infamy into which it had sunk long before he died. The word beastly, so often applied to Paine, though far from being elegant, most fitly expresses his real character. So debauched, degraded and filthy had he become before his death that he was a fit companion only for the "beasts that perish," and he was in consequence excluded from all decent society, and even from that of respectable infidels.
We have in our possession abundant testimony to the facts in the case, and briefly from our own correspondents. The direct testimony we preface with an extract from a sketch of the life of Paine, in a volume entitled "Our Countrymen," by B. J. Lossing, Esq., the well-known historian. A portion of this sketch we published in the Observer of June 21, 1855, in which Mr. Lossing says:
"In 1802 he (Paine) returned to America and resided a part of the time upon a farm at New Rochelle, presented to him by the State of New York for his Revolutionary services. Paine became very intemperate and fell low in the social scale, not only on account of his beastly habits but because of his blasphemous tirade against Christianity."
In the year 1851 Grant Thornburn of this city, who was personally acquainted with the man of whom he wrote, furnished for the New York Observer two articles "Reminiscences of Thomas Paine" from which we make some extracts. Grant Thorburn, who was the reputed hero of Galt's "Lawrie Todd," was personally and well known to hundreds of persons still living in this city. His statements, so far as we know, were nowhere called in question at the time they were published.
From the New York Observer, April 17, 1851
Messrs. Editors.--A few years ago I entered my seventy-ninth year. For the last sixty of these years I have been only one day confined by sickness. I am not sensible of decay, in either body or mind, spectacles excepted. I have not a pain or a stiff joint in my body. I walk as far and as fast, and my personal feelings are as comfortable as when in my twentieth years thank God, who gave me a sound constitution, and common sense to take care of it.
I think it is the duty of the aged to tell the generation that is to follow what they have seen with their own eyes and heard with their ears of the wonders the Lord has wrought in their days. In his providential arrangements he brought me into close contact with Paine and Carver, two of his most open and inveterate enemies. Carver and I blew the bellows in the same shop; Paine lodged with Carver; hence our intimacy. My days are numbered, and but few remain. I owe it to my God and to the world to tell what I have seen, felt and heard in their company.
The past sixty years have been styled emphatically the age of Infidelity. I was in my nineteenth year at the commencement of that period, and have been in contact, and, in some case, in confidential intimacy, with some of the most prominent actors in the important events embraced in that period. One of the most prominent in his day was Mr. Thomas Paine. His public history is before the world, but his secret history, as they say in St. Cloud, is probably now known only to myself. Of the truth of this remark you will judge in the sequel.
Thomas Paine was born in 1737 in Norfolk county, Old England. He was brought up to the business of staymaking with his father, who was a member of the Society of Friends. He was afterward an exciseman in the town of Lewes, where he married the daughter of the Collector of the Custom House. After three years she obtained a divorce from him for neglect and cruel treatment. (Ladies, this mortal was the author of the "Rights of Man.") Shortly after this he became a defaulter and fled to America at the commencement of the Revolution. In 1789 Paine went to France. In 1792 he was chosen a member of the bloody Convention. and sat on the trial of Louis XVI. In the Reign of Terror and of Robespierre he was thrown into prison and narrowly escaped the guillotine by a miracle of Providence. While in France he published letters to Washington-a scurrilous label, which was bought, read and extolled by Deists, Jacobins, and Infidels, but burned and destroyed by true Americans. God willing, I will give the account of his escape from the guillotine, in a future number, as I heard it from his own lips.
Paine arrived at New York in the spring of 1802. On the next day I was introduced to him at the City Hotel. On the day after he started for Washington. There he was received with open arms by Jefferson, Aaron Burr, and a whole phalanx of Deists and Jacobins from every section of the country. A public dinner was got up to welcome the author of the "Age of Reason" and the same man who tried to deface the fair fame of Washington. As easily might Paine darken the sun of midday by throwing at it a handful of mud. But the dinner! Here was expected a feast of reason and flow of soul. Alas! tell it not in Gath! Paine entered-his feet covered with a preparation of mud and compost; his pants having a rent both wide and unseemly; his vest, which had once been black, was now the color of gold dust, from a thick covering of Scotch snub. His coat had a ventilator at the elbow of each sleeve. His fine linen looked as if not mollified by Colgate's soap since the last fourth of July. He reeled to and fro like a drunken man at his wits' end. Thus he entered the room. The Freethinkers were confounded, and thought it was a hoax; they, no doubt mentally exclaimed, "He is no company for gentlemen." He received instructions in a few days, and left the purlieus of the court forever.
Arriving in New York, he was set down at the City Hotel; but his habits being an outrage on all the common decencies of life, at the end of the week he was politely informed there was no room for him in that inn. His trunk was carried from hotel to tavern, from tavern to boarding house, and still the answer was, "We have no room." Inquiry for accommodation was made at a dwelling whose inmates were wretchedness personified; but it was written on the door as with the point of a diamond, "No admittance for Thomas Paine." In this dilemma, Wm. Carver received him into his own house. It was here our intimacy commenced, and it continued with a few interruptions, seven years thereafter.
The following extract is made from a subsequent number of the "Reminiscences of Thomas Paine," by the same hand:
From the New York Observer, May 1, 1851.
It was in Carver's house, that by the movements of Providence, I sat down between two of the most inveterate infidels that ever beheld the light of the sun. They were both mechanics- Carver a blacksmith, Paine a stay-maker. They were both unlearned men, but were of strong mind; for the Devil, having made human nature his study for six thousand years, will never employ a fool when he needs a journeyman. Carver, his wife, and Paine having been inhabitants of the same town in England, at their fireside, he being present, I learned his history from his cradle; and I saw him in all his native deformity, and traced him with my own eyes to his grave. Carver kept a porter-house on a small scale on the corner of Thames and Temple streets; at the same time he doctored horses and mended their shoes. It was noised about that Mr. Paine kept his headquarters in this domicile, a small two-story building whose outside had not seen a whitewash or paint brush since the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown. Hundreds of his old political and freethinking friends resorted hither to meet him. I witnessed some of their interviews; but oh, what consternation! Instead of the palefaced man of thirty-six, when he wrote "Common Sense," they beheld an old remnant of mortality, drunk, bloated and half asleep. Very few of the better sort ever returned.
Mr. Paine was sensible of his forbidding appearance, and generally was very morose when strangers were introduced. An old lady from Scotland wished an introduction. We entered his room. Said I, "Mr. Paine, this is Mrs. Bruce, from Scotland." "Scotland," he repeated, "a country of bigots and fanatics." "Yes," said I, "but it's the only country in Europe where every man, woman and child can read the Bible and write their own name." Our stay was short. When we got on the pavement, what do you think of Mr. Paine?" I inquired, "I think he is fou (drunk), but och man," she added, "what an awfu' judgment looking face he's got."
His chief companions were journeymen, mechanics of the baser sort. One evening I stepped into his room. He was setting forth the Bible to a dozen of these characters, and painting it in its blackest colors. When he had ceased, I said, "Mr. Paine, you have been in Ireland and Scotland." He had. "Scotland comparatively speaking, is full of Bibles; everyone reads it and it is their chief school-book." This he conceded. "They have few Bibles in Ireland, and those who can read are prohibited by the priests from looking in the Bible." This also was conceded. "Now," said I "Mr. Paine, if the Bible was a bad book, those who use it most would be the worst members of society, but the contrary is the fact, for while our jails, penitentiaries, State prisons and almshouses are filled from Ireland, this day there is not a Scotsman or woman in any of them," and such was a fact at that time. Observe that this was forty-five years ago. "Besides," I continued, "I see in this room a few of my own shopmates. In months past, when they read the Bible, they went to church with their families. There they rested from the labors of the last week and kept their children under eye, rose early on Monday morning, and entered on the labors of the week with a sound head and a quiet conscience. And what are they now? Having heard the lectures of blind Palmer and read your 'Age of Reason,' they became Freethinkers; and if they continue in the same course they are now following, they will soon be free-drinkers also." "And what are they following?" said Paine. Said I "They now go to the tavern on Sunday, sit drinking, smoking and talking politics, their children in the streets or fields learning everything that is wicked; having spent fifty or sixty cents, each one comes home late, and better than half drunk; he has a headache next morning, and perhaps is unable to work till 2 P.M., thus losing a half - day's wages. Disease and death soon follow, when his widow and orphans are sent to the almshous."
I continued: "Mr. Paine, Hume, yourself and other Freethinkers profess to write for the good of society." He assented, "Well," said I, "which is the most useful member of society; he who spends his time and money in the tavern, leaving his children to grow up a curse to the world, or the man who leads his children to church on Sunday, keeps them in sight through the day, and thus preserves them from the path of the destroyer, besides saving of his money, and the preservation of his own health?" The clock in the room struck ten as I spoke the last sentence; two candles were burning on the table; he took one, and walked off to bed without saying a word. His disciples and I looked on one another for a moment after; after a few friendly remarks on the same subject, each man went to his own house. They never all returned, and some of them walked no more with him.
On a subsequent evening he told me the particulars of his remarkable escape from death, but the narrative is too long for this article. I will state the particulars in my next, only remarking, by the day, that when he stopped speaking, I said, "What did you think at the time of this wonderful preservation?" He said the Fates had ordained that he was not to die at that time. Said I, "Mr. Paine, I will tell you what I think; you know you have written and spoken much against the religion of the Bible; you have extolled the perfectibility of human reason when left to its' own guidance, unshackled by priestcraft and superstition. The God in whom you live and move, and have your being, has spared your life, that you might give to the world a living comment on your own doctrines. You now show to the world what human nature is, when left to itself, to gander in its own counsels. Here you sit, in an obscure uncomfortable dwelling, powdered with snuff, and stupefied with brandy. You who were once the companion of Washington, Jay, and Hamilton; but are now deserted by every good man and even respectable Deists cross the street to avoid you." He said he cared not a straw for the opinions of the world. Said I, "I envy not your feelings, for I wish so to conduct, that I may gain the esteem of my fellow men."
He died on the 8th of June, 1809. Few knew that he was alive that month, till they saw his death announced in the papers of the 9th; but had he died on the day when he was chalked for the guillotine in Paris, his name would have stood high in the temple of fame; But he was spared ten years longer, till his profane and hateful life put a veto on his model writings.
The subject of Paine's character having come up more than a year ago, we received the following letter from the Rev. J. D. Wickham, D. D., of Manchester, Vt., a gentleman of the highest character, with whom we have been acquainted from our boyhood. He is an uncle to ex-Mayor Wickham, of the city of New York. The following is an extract from his letter, as published in the Observer at that time:
From the New York Observer, Feb. 17, 1876.
A writer in one of the daily papers said of Paine's habits: "The stories of his drunkenness and licentiousness are the wicked invitation of the clergy whose path he has dared to cross, and who only refrain from practicing the abominable cruelties of past ages upon those who differ from them, not because of want of will, but because their strength is shorn."
The Rev. J. D. Wickham, D. D., replies to this statement as follows
"The writer of this communication was more than fifty years ago a resident of New Rochelle, N.Y, where the body of Paine was buried. His grave was in one corner of a farm, which having been confiscated as the property of a Tory during the Revolutionary war, had been presented to Paine by the State of New York for his patriotic service in aid of the Revolution. On this farm he spent his latter days with a solitary female attendant. I have heard the physician who visited him describe the condition in which he was accustomed to find his patient, and to which his vicious habits, and especially his habitual drunkenness, had reduced him. This he represented as revolting to his sensibilities, making even his necessary calls to prescribe for his relief exceedingly unwelcome and repulsive. This physician was an esteemed elder in the church of which I was at that time pastor, highly regarded not only for skill in his profession, but as a man of sound judgment and unimpeachable veracity. He has been dead many years. But the name of Matson Smith, M. D., is still
held in honored remembrance by all who knew him."
On the appearance of the letter of Dr. Wickham, we received a communication from the Rev. Charles Hawley, D.D, then and now the distinguished pastor of the First Presbyterian church of Auburn, NY, confirming Dr W's statements in regard to the character and habits of Paine. From New York Observer, March 9, 1876.
"The statement of Rev. Dr. Wickham, who preceded me in the Presbyterian church of that place (New Rochelle) some twenty years, accords entirely with the well known facts concerning Paine's habits as given me by the older residents, and which, until quite recently, have remained uncontradicted. The venerable Matson Smith, whom Dr. W gives as his principal authority, was an elder in the church at New Rochelle from its organization until his death, a period of more than thirty years, esteemed and trusted by all for his Christian integrity and professional skill. I have heard from him substantially the same account of Paine's degradation, from personal knowledge as his physician, the particulars of which are too loathsome to be described in print. He came to lose all self-respect and regard for decency in his personal habits, which were at times simply beastly. His drunkenness became habitual and notorious before he left New Rochelle and he was not infrequently found lying by the roadside so helplessly intoxicated that he had to be carried home, as I have been told by persons who hid befriended him in that miserable condition.
"There were some who, in spite of the shame and degradation into which he fell, still cherished a lingering respect for what he had been, and in consideration of the service he had rendered the Revolutionary cause by his political writings, but no one in that vicinity, so late as thirty years ago, would have had the temerity to deny these things, much less to call them wicked inventions of the clergy. Dr. Smith was accustomed to refer to Paine's powers of conversation as somewhat remarkable, and even fascinating, when he was himself; and never gave me the impression that he spake from religious prejudice, but rather both regret that one so capable of better things should have sunken so low."
This much for the life of Paine. Now for his death. The testimony contained in the following article we copied from the New York Tribune of March 27, 1876. It has been published again and again, and so far as we know has never been impeached. The extract from the Journal of Stephen Grellet was also printed In the Observer of Jan. 29, 1863, with a note stating that it was from the Memoirs of Stephen Grellet, a Quaker, whose "Life and Gospel Labors" were published in Philadelphia, 1860. Mr. Grellet at that time alluded to resided in Greenwich, then a suburb of New York, where Paine resided and where he died.
New York Tribune of March 27, 1876.
His last hours-Extracts from an old Journal.
To the Editor of the Tribune:
Sir: I am much pleased with your editorial, "Thomas Paine's Bust." In the Journal of Stephen Grellet, a noted and most worthy minister of the Society of Friends, I find the following record made in the Fall of 1803:
"I may not omit recording here the death of Thomas Paine. A few days previous to my leaving home on my last religious visit, on hearing that he was ill and in a very destitute condition, I went to see him, and found him in a wretched state, for he had been so neglected and forsaken by his pretended friends that the common attentions to a sick man had been withheld from him. The skin of his body was in some places worn off, which greatly increased his sufferings. A nurse was provided for him and some needful comforts were supplied. He was mostly in a state of stupor, but something that had passed between us had made such an impression upon him that some time after my departure he sent for me, and on being told that I was gone from home, he sent for another friend. This induced a valuable young friend (Mary Roscoe), who has resided in my family and continued at Greenwich during a part of my absence, frequently to go and take him some little refreshment suitable for an invalid, furnished by a neighbor. Once when she was there, three of his deistical associates came to the door, and, in a loud, unfeeling manner, said, "Tom Paine, it is said you are turning Christian, but we hope you will die as you have lived and then went away. On which, turning to Mary Roscoe, he said, you see what miserable comforters they are.' Once he asked her if she had ever read any of his writings, and on being told she had read but very little of them, he inquired what she thought of them, adding, 'From such a one as you I expect a correct .' She told him that when very young his 'Age of Reason' was put into her hands, but that the more she read in it the more dark and distressed she felt, and she threw the book into the fire. 'I wish all had done as you.' he replied; 'for if the devil had any agency in any work, he has had it in my writing that book.' When going to carry him some refreshments, she repeatedly heard him uttering the language, 'Oh Lord!' 'Lord God!' or 'Lord Jesus have mercy upon me!'"
Thus the poor infidel, wretched in body and mind, received at the last his only ministrations of comfort from hands prompted by hearts filled with the love of the Lord Jesus, whom he had denied and reviled.
Very truly, &c., W. H. Ladd.
Brooklyn, 3d month, 25th day, 1876.
We have verified the above extract, and have corrected one or two unimportant verbal errors from the second edition of the "Memoirs of the Life and Gospel Labors of Stephen Grellet,'' published in London in 1861 (see vol. i. p. 125). That so little is known in regard to the last days of Paine is explained by the fact that he had been deserted by all decent people, excepting those who, like Stephen Grellet and the nurse he employed, ministered to the wretched man out of Christian compassion. Stephen Grellet, in his Journal, states that Paine wrote much during his last illness, but nothing of what he wrote at that time remains. His Infidel executors may have had their own reasons for not giving to the world "The Last Words of Thomas Paine."
We are quite sure all candid readers will acknowledge that we have proved our propositions, that Paine lived a drunken, beastly life, and that he "died a drunken, cowardly and beastly death." That the proof will be accepted by Infidels, we can only hope. Some would not be persuaded even though Tom Paine should rise from the dead and confirm it all. Those of the same character with Paine can be expected to renounce their admiration for such a specimen of Infidelity and blasphemy and of beastly living, only through the enlightening influences of God's grace, which has opened the eyes of thousands and tens of thousands of Infidels, and made them humble believers in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Savior of sinners. We wish even to the bitterest enemies of the cross nothing worse than this. And in the hope that this statement of facts may be blessed of God to the farther illustration of the fruits of Infidelity as exhibited in the life of one of its chief apostles, we do not regret having been called to devote so much space to the subject.
INGERSOLL'S REPLY TO THE OBSERVER.
"To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason is like administering medicine to the dead." --Thomas Paine
PEORIA, October 8, 1877.
To the Editor of the N. Y. Observer:
Sir: Last June in San Francisco, I offered a thousand dollars in gold-not as a wager, but as a gift-to any one who would substantiate the absurd story that Thomas Paine died in agony and fear, frightened by the clanking chains of devils. I also covered the same amount to any minister who would prove that Voltaire did not pass away as serenely as the coming of the dawn. Afterward I was informed that you had accepted the offer, and called upon me to deposit the money. Acting upon this information, I sent you the following letter:
(This is the letter printed at the beginning of this article.)
In your paper of September 27, 1877, you acknowledge the receipt of the foregoing letter, and after giving an outline of its contents, say: "As not one of the affirmations, in the form stated in this letter, was contained in the offer we made, we have no occasion to substantiate them. But we are prepared to produce the evidence of the truth of our own statement, and even to go further: to show not only that Tom Paine 'died a drunken, cowardly, and beastly death,' but that for many years previous, and up to that event he lived a drunken and beastly life."
In order to refresh your memory as to what you published, I call your attention to the following, which appeared in the New York Observer, the 19th of July, 1877.
"PUT DOWN THE MONEY."
"Col. Bob Ingersoll, in a speech full of ribaldry and blasphemy, made in San Francisco recently, said:
"I will give $1,000 in gold coin to any clergyman who can substantiate that the death of Voltaire was not as peaceful as the dawn; and of Tom Paine whom they assert died in fear and agony, frightened by the clanking chains of devils-in fact, frightened to death by God. I will give $1,000 likewise to any one who can substantiate this 'absurd story'-a story without a word of truth in it."
"We have published the testimony, and the witnesses are on hand to prove that Tom Paine died a drunken, cowardly, and beastly death. Let the Colonel deposit the money with any honest man, and the absurd story, as he terms it, shall be shown to be an ower true tale. But he won't do it. His talk is Infidel 'buncombe' and nothing more."
On the 31st of August I sent you my letter, and on the 27th of September you say in your paper: "As not one of the affirmations in the form stated in this letter was contained in the offer we made, we have no occasion to substantiate them."
What were the affirmations contained in the offer you made? I had offered a thousand dollars in gold to any one who would substantiate "the absurd story" that Thomas Paine died in fear and agony, frightened by the clanking chains of devils--in fact, frightened to death by God.
In response to this offer you said: "Let the Colonel deposit the money with an honest man and the 'absurd story,' as he terms it, shall be shown to be an 'ower true tale.' But he won't do it. His talk is Infidel 'buncombe' and nothing more."
Did you not offer to prove that Paine died in fear and agony, frightened by the clanking chains of devils? Did you not ask me to deposit the money that you might prove the "absurd story" to be an "ower true tale" and obtain the money? Did you not in your paper of the 27th of September in effect deny that you had offered to prove this "absurd story"? As soon as I offered to deposit the gold and give bonds besides to cover costs, did you not publish a falsehood?
You have eaten your own words, and, for my part, I would rather have dined with Ezekiel than with you.
You have not met the issue. You have knowingly avoided it. The question was not as to the personal habits of Paine. The real question was and is, whether Paine was filled with fear and horror at the time of his death on account of his religious opinions. That is the question. You avoid this. In effect, you abandon that charge and make others.
To you belongs the honor of having made the most cruel and infamous charges against Thomas Paine that have ever been made. Of what you have said you cannot prove the truth of one word.
You say that Thomas Paine died a drunken, cowardly and beastly death.
I pronounce this charge to be a cowardly and beastly falsehood.
Have you any evidence that he was in a drunken condition when he died?
What did he say or do of a cowardly character just before, or at about the time of his death?
In what way was his death cowardly?
You must answer these questions, and give your proof, or all honest men will hold you in abhorrence. You have made these charges. The man against whom you make them is dead. He cannot answer you. I can. He cannot compel you to produce your testimony, or admit by your silence that you have cruelly slandered the defenseless dead. I can and I will. You say that his death was cowardly. In what respect? Was it cowardly in him to hold the Thirty nine Articles in contempt? Was it cowardly not to call on your Lord? Was it cowardly not to be afraid? You say that his death was beastly. Again I ask, in what respect? Was it beastly to submit to the inevitable and tranquillity? Was it beastly to look with composure upon the approach of death? Was it beastly to die without a complaint, without a murmur to pass from life without fear?
Mr. Paine had prophesied that fanatics would crawl and cringe around him during his last moments. He believed they would put a lie in the mouth of Death.
When the shadow of the coming dissolution was upon him, two clergymen, Messrs. Milledollar and Cunningham, called to annoy the dying man. Mr. Cunningham had the politeness to say, "You have now a full view of death-you cannot live long, and whosoever does not believe in the Lord Jesus Christ will assuredly be damned." Mr. Paine replied, let me have none of your popish stuff. Get away with you. Good morning."
On another occasion a Methodist minister obtruded himself when Willet Hicks was present. This minister declared to Mr. Paine that unless he repented of his unbelief he would be damned." Paine, although at the door of death, rose in his bed and indignantly requested the clergyman to leave his room. On another occasion, two brothers by the name of Pigott sought to convert him. He was displeased and requested their departure. Afterwards Thomas Nixon and Captain Daniel Pelton visited him for the express purpose of ascertaining whether he had, in any manner, changed his religious opinions. They were assured by the dying man that he still held the principles he had expressed in his writings. Afterwards, these gentlemen hearing that William Cobbett was about to write a life of Paine sent him the following note
NEW YORK, April 24, 1818.
Sir: We have been informed that you have a design to write a history of the life and writings of Thomas Paine. If you have been furnished with materials in respect to his religious opinions, or rather of his recantation of his former opinions before his death, all you have heard of his recanting is false. Being aware that such reports would be raised after his death by fanatics which infested his house at the time. It was expected he would die, we, the subscribers, intimate acquaintances of Thomas Paine since the year 1776, went to his house. He was setting up in a chair, and apparently in full vigor and use of all his mental faculties. We interrogated him upon his religious opinions, and if he had changed his mind, or repented of anything he had said or wrote on that subject. He answered. "not at all," and appeared rather offended at our supposition that any change should take place in his mind. We took down in writing the questions put to him and his answers thereto before a number of persons then in his room, among whom were his doctor, Mrs. Bonneville, etc. This paper is mislaid and cannot be found at present, but the above is the substance which can be attested by many living witnesses.
THOMAS NIXON,DANIEL PELTON.
Mr. Jarvis, the artist, saw Mr. Paine one or two days before his death. To Mr. Jarvis he expressed his belief in his written opinions upon the subject of religion. B. F. Haskin, an attorney of the city of New York, also visited him and inquired as to his religious opinions. Paine was then upon the threshold of death, but he did not tremble. He was not a coward. He expressed his firm and unshaken belief in the religious ideas he had given to the world.
Dr. Manley was with him when he spoke his last words. Dr. Manley asked the dying man if he did not wish to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, and the dying philosopher answered: "I have no wish to believe on that subject." Amasa Wordsworth sat up with Thomas Paine the night before his death. In 1869 Gilbert Vale hearing that Mr. Wordsworth was living in or near Boston, visited him for the purpose of getting his statement. The statement was published in the Beacon of June 5, 1839, whale thousands who had been acquainted with Mr. Paine were living.
The following is the article referred to:
"We have just returned from Boston. One object of our visit to that city, was to see a Mr. Amasa Wordsworth, an engineer, now retired in a handsome cottage and garden at East Cambridge, Boston. This gentleman owned the house occupied by Paine at his death-while he lived next door. As an act of kindness Mr. Woodsworth visited Mr. Paine every day for six weeks before his death. He frequently sat up with him, and did so on the last two nights of his life. He was always there with Dr. Manley, the physician, and assisted in removing Mr. Paine while his bed was prepared. He was present when Dr. Manley asked Mr. Paine "if he wished to believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God," and he describes Mr. Paine's answer as animated. He says that lying on his back he used some action and with much emphasis, replied, "I have no wish to believe on that subject." He lived some time after this, but was not known to speak, for he died tranquilly. He accounts for the insinuating style of Dr. Manley's letter, by stating that that gentleman just after its publication joined a church. He informs us that he has openly reproved the doctor for the falsity contained in the spirit of that letter, boldly declaring before Dr. Manley, who is yet living that nothing which he saw, justified the insinuations. Mr. Woodsworth assures us that he neither heard nor saw anything to justify the belief of any mental change in the opinions of Mr. Paine previous to his death, but that being very ill and in pain, chiefly arising from the skin being removed in some parts by long lying, he was generally too uneasy to enjoy conversation on the abstract subjects. This, then, is the best evidence that can be procured on this subject and we publish it while the contravening parties are yet alive, and with the authority of Mr. Woodsworth." GILBERT VALE.
A few weeks ago I received the following letter, which confirms the statement of Mr. Vale:
NEAR STOCKTON, CAL., GREENWOOD COTTAGE, July 9, 1877.
COL. INGERSOLL: in 1842 I talked with a gentleman in Boston. I have forgotten his name, but he was then an engineer of the Charlestown navy yard. I am thus particular so you can find his name on the books. He told me that he had nursed Thomas Paine in his last illness, and closed his eyes when dead. I asked him if he recanted and called upon God to save him. He replied: "No. He died as he had taught. He had a sore upon his side, and when we turned him over it was very painful and he would cry out, 'O God!' or something like that." "But," said the narrator, "that was nothing, for he believed in a God." I told him that I had often asserted from the pulpit that Mr. Paine had recanted in his last moments. The gentleman said that it was not true, and appeared to be an intelligent, truthful man. With respect, I remain, &c., PHILIP GRAVES, M. D.
The next witness was Willet Hicks, a Quaker preacher. He says that during the last illness of Mr. Paine he visited him almost daily, and that Paine died firmly convinced of the truth of the religious opinions he had given to his fellowmen. It was this same Willet Hicks that Paine applied to for permission to be buried in the cemetery of the Quakers. Permission was refused. This settles the question of recantation. If he had recanted, of course there would have been no objection to his body being buried by the side of the best hypocrites on earth. If Paine recanted, why should he be denied "a little earth for charity"? Had he recanted, it would have been regarded as a vast and splendid triumph for the gospel. It would, with much noise and ostentation, have been heralded about the world.
I received the following letter to-day.
The writer is well known in this city and is a man of high character:
PEORIA, OCT. 8th, 1877.
ROBERT G. INGERSOLL--Esteemed Friend:
My parents were Friends (Quakers). The elderly and middle-aged Friends visited at my mother's house. We lived in the city of New York. Among thy number I distinctly remember Elias Hicks, Willet Hicks, and a Mr. Day, who was a bookseller in Pearl street. There were many others whose names I do not remember. The subject of the recantation by Thomas Paine his views about the Bible in his last illness, or at any other time, was discussed by them in my presence at different times. I learned from them that some of them had attended upon Thomas Paine in his last sickness and administered to his wants up to the time of his death. And upon the question of whether he did recant there was but one expression. They all said that he did not recant in any manner. I often heard them say they wished he had recanted. In fact, according to them, the nearer he approached death the more positive he appeared to be in his convictions.
These conversations were from 1820 to 1822. I was at that time from ten to twelve years old, but these conversations impressed themselves upon me because many thoughtless people then blamed the Society of Friends for their kindness to that "arch Infidel," Thomas Paine. Truly yours,
A few days ago I received the following letter:
ALBANY, N.Y., Sept. 27, 1867.
Dear Sir: It is over twenty years ago that professionally I made the acquaintance of John Hogeboom, a Justice of the Peace of the County of Rensselaer, New York. He was then over seventy years of age and had the reputation of being a man of candor and integrity. He was a great admirer of Paine. He told me that he was personally acquainted with him, and used to see him frequently during the last years of his life in the city of New York, where Hogeboom then resided. I asked him if there was any truth in the charge that Paine was in the habit of getting drunk. He said that it was utterly false; that he never heard of such a thing during the lifetime of Mr. Paine, and did not believe anyone else did. I asked him about the recantation of his religious opinions on his deathbed and revolting deathbed scenes that the world has heard so much about. He said there was no truth in them; but he had received his information from persons who attended Paine in his last illness, "and that he passed peacefully away, as we may say, in the sunshine of a great soul." Yours truly,
The witnesses by whom I substantiate the fact that Thomas Paine did not recant, and that he died holding the religious opinions he had published, are:
1st--Thomas Nixon, Captain Daniel Pelton, B.F. Haskin. These gentlemen visited him during his last illness for the purpose of ascertaining if he had in any respect changed his views upon religion. He told them he had not.
2d-James Cheetham. This man was the most malicious enemy Mr. Paine had, and yet he admits that "Thomas Paine died placidly and almost without a struggle" (see Life of Thomas Paine by James Cheetham).
3d-The ministers Milledollar and Cunningham. These gentlemen told Mr. Paine that if he died without believing in the Lord Jesus Christ he would be damned, and Paine replied, "Let me have none of your popish stuff. Good morning" (see Sherwin's Life of Paine, p. 220.)
4th-Mrs. Hedden. She told these same preachers when they attempted to obtrude themselves upon Mr. Paine again, that the attempt to convert Mr. Paine was useless -"that if God did not change his mind no human power could."
5th-Andrew A. Dean. This man lived upon Paine's farm at New Rochelle and corresponded with him upon religious subjects (see Paine's Theological Works, page 308.)
6th-Mr. Jarvis, the artist with whom Paine lived. He gives an account of an old lady coming to Paine and telling him that God Almighty had sent her to tell him that unless he believed in the blessed savior he would be damned. Paine replied that God would not send such a foolish woman with such an impertinent message (see Clio Hickman's life of Paine.)
7th-William Carver, with whom Paine boarded. Mr. Carver said again and again that Paine did not recant. He knew him well, and had every opportunity of knowing (see Life of Paine by Vale).
8th-Dr. Manley, who attended him in his last sickness, and to whom Paine spoke his last words. Dr. Manley asked him if he did not wish to believe in Jesus Christ, and he replied: "I have no wish to believe on that subject."
9th-Willet Hicks and Elias Hicks, who were with him frequently during his last sickness, and both of whom tried to persuade him to recant. According to their testimony, Mr. Paine died as he had lived -a believer in God and a friend of man. Willet Hicks was offered money to say something false against Thomas Paine. He was even offered money to remain silent and allow others to slander the dead. Mr. Hicks, speaking of Thomas Paine, said : "He was a good man-an honest man" (Vale's Life of Paine).
10th-Amasa Woodsworth, who was with him every day for some six weeks immediately preceding his death, and sat up with him the last two nights of his life. This man declares that Paine did not recant and that he died tranquilly. The evidence of Mr. Woodsworth is conclusive.
11th-Thomas Paine himself: The will of Thomas Paine written by himself, commences as follows: "The last will and testament of me, the subscriber, Thomas Paine, reposing confidence in my creator God, and in no other being, for I know of no other, nor believe in any other," and closes in these words: "I have lived an honest and useful life to mankind; my time has been spent in doing good, and I die in perfect composure and resignation to the will of my creator God."
12th-If Thomas Paine recanted, why do you pursue him? If he recanted, he died substantially in your belief, for what reason, then, do you denounce his death as cowardly? If, upon his deathbed, he renounced the opinions he had published, the business of defaming him should be done by infidels, not by Christians.
I ask you if it is honest to throw away the testimony of his friends-the evidence of fair and honorable men-and take the words of avowed and malignant putrid enemies?
When Thomas Paine was dying he was infested with fanatics-by the snaky spies of bigotry. In the shadows of death were the unclean birds of prey waiting to tear with beak and claw the corpse of him who wrote the "Rights of Man." And there, lurking and crouching in the darkness, were the jackals and hyenas of superstition, ready to violate his grave.
These birds of prey-these unclean beasts-are the witnesses produced and relied upon by you.
One by one the instruments of torture have been wrenched from the cruel clutch of the Church, until within the armory of orthodoxy there remains but one weapon -Slander.
Against the witnesses that I have produced you can bring just two-Mary Roscoe and Mary Hinsdale. The first is referred to in the memoir of Stephen Grellet. She had once been a servant in his house. Grellet tells what happened between this girl and Paine. According to this account, Paine asked her if she had ever read any of his writings, and on being told that she had read very little of them, he inquired what she thought of them, adding that from such an one he expected a correct answer.
Let us examine this falsehood. Why would Paine expect a correct answer from one who had read very little of them? Does not such a statement devour itself? This young lady further said that the "Age of Reason" was put into her hands, and that the more she read in it the more dark and distressed she felt, and that she threw the book into the fire. Whereupon Mr. Paine remarked: "I wish all had done as you did, for if the devil ever had any agency in any work he had it in my writing that book."
The next is Mary Hinsdale. She was a servant in the family of Willet Hicks. She, like Mary Roscoe, was sent to carry some delicacy to Mr. Paine. To this young lady Paine, according to her account, said precisely the same thing that he did to Mary Roscoe, and she said the same thing to Mr. Paine.
My opinion is that Mary Roscoe and Mary Hinsdale are one and the same person, or the same story has been by mistake put into the mouth of both.
It is not possible that the same conversation should have taken place between Paine and Mary Roscoe and between him and Mary Hinsdale.
Mary Hinsdale lived with Willet Hicks. and he pronounced her story a pious fraud and fabrication. He said that Thomas Paine never said any such thing to Mary Hinsdale (see Vale's Life of Paine).
Another thing about this witness. A woman by the name of Mary Lockwood, a Hocksite Quaker, died. Mary Hinsdale met her brother about this time and told him that his sister had recanted, and wanted her to say so at her funeral. This turned out to be false.
It has been claimed that Mary Hinsdale made her statement to Charles Collins. Long after the alleged occurrence Gilbert Vale, one of the biographers of Paine, had a conversation with Collins concerning Mary Hinsdale. Vale asked him what he thought of her. He replied that some of the Friends believed that she used opiates, and that they did not give credit to her statements. He also said that he believed what the Friends said, but thought that when a young woman she might have told the truth.
In 1818 William Cobbett came to New York. He began collecting materials for a life of Thomas Paine. In this he became acquainted with Mary Hinsdale and Charles Collins. Mr. Cobbett gave a full account of what happened in a letter addressed to the Norwich Mercury in 1819. From this account it seems that Charles Collins told Cobbett that Paine had recanted. Cobbett lied for the testimony, and told Mr. Collins that he must give time, place and the circumstances. He finally brought a statement that he stated had been made by Mary Hinsdale. Armed with this document, Cobbett, in October of that year, called upon the said Mary Hinsdale at No. 10 Anthony street, New York and showed her the statement. Upon being questioned by Mr. Cobbett she said: "That it was so long ago that she could not speak positively to any part of the matter-that she would not say that any part of the paper was true that she had never seen the paper-and that she had never given Charles Collins authority to say anything about the matter in her name." And so, in the month of October, in the year of grace 1818, in the mist and fog of forgetfulness disappeared forever one Mary Hinsdale-the last and only witness against the intellectual honesty of Thomas Paine.
DID THOMAS PAINE LIVE THE LIFE OF A DRUNKEN BEAST, AND DID HE DIE A DRUNKEN, COWARDLY DEATH?
Upon you rests the burden of substantiating these infamous charges. You have I suppose, produced the best evidence in your possession, and that evidence I will now proceed to examine. Your first witness is Grant Thorburn. He makes three charges against Thomas Paine. 1st. That his wife obtained a divorce from him in England for cruelty and neglect. 2nd. That he was a defaulter and fled from England to America. 3rd. That he was a drunkard. These three charges stand upon the same evidence-the word of Grant Thorburn. If they are not all true, Mr. Thorburn stands impeached.
The charge that Mrs. Paine obtained a divorce on account of the cruelty and neglect of her husband is utterly false. There is no such record in the world, and never was. Paine and his wife separated by mutual consent, each respecting the other. They remained friends. This charge is without any foundation in fact. I challenge the Christian world to produce the record of this decree of divorce. According to Mr. Thorburn, it was granted in England. In that country public records are kept of all such decrees. Have the kindness to produce this decree, showing that it was given on account of cruelty, or admit that Mr. Thorburn was mistaken.
Thomas Paine was a just man. Although separated from his wife, he always spoke of her with tenderness and respect, and frequently sent her money without letting her know the source from whence it came.
Was this the conduct of a drunken beast?
The second charge, that Paine was a defaulter in England and fled to America, is equally false. He did not flee from England. He came to America not as a fugitive but as a free man. He came with a letter of introduction signed by another infidel, Benjamin Franklin. He came as a soldier of freedom-an apostle of Liberty.
In this second charge there is not one word of truth.
He held a small once in England. If he was a defaulter, the records of that country will show that fact.
Mr. Thorburn, unless the record can be produced to substantiate him, stands convicted of at least two mistakes.
Now, as to the third: He says that in 1802 Paine was an "old remnant of mortality, drunk, bloated, and half asleep."
Can anyone believe this to be a true account of the personal appearance of Mr. Paine in 1802? He had just returned from France. He had been welcomed home by Thomas Jefferson, who had said that he was entitled to the hospitality of every American.
In 1802 Mr. Paine was honored with a public dinner in the City of New York. He was called upon and treated with kindness and respect by such men as DeWitt Clinton.
In 1806 Mr. Paine wrote a letter to Andrew A. Dean upon the subject of religion. Read that letter and then say that the writer of it was an "old remnant of mortality, drunk, bloated, and half asleep." Search the files of the New York Observer, from the first issue to the last, and you will find nothing superior to this letter. In 1803 Mr. Paine wrote a letter of considerable length, and of great force, to his friend, Samuel Adams. Such letters are not written by drunken beasts, nor by old remnants of mortality, nor by drunkards. It was about the same time that he wrote his "Remarks on Robert Hall's Sermons." These "Remarks" were not written by a drunken beast but by a clear-headed and thoughtful man.
In 1804 he published an essay on the invasion of England and a treatise on gunboats, full of valuable maritime information; in 1805 a treatise on yellow fever, suggesting modes of prevention. In short, he was an industrious and thoughtful man. He sympathized with the poor and oppressed of all lands. He looked upon monarchy as a species of physical slavery. He had the goodness to attack that form of government. He regarded the religion of his day as a kind of mental slavery. He had the courage to give his reasons for his opinion. His reasons filled the churches with hatred. Instead of answering his arguments they attacked him. Men who were not fit to blacken his shoes blackened his character.
There is too much religious cant in the statement of Mr. Thorburn. He exhibited too much anxiety to tell what Grant Thorburn said to Thomas Paine. He names Thomas Jefferson as one of the disreputable men who welcomed Paine with open arms. The testimony of a man who regarded Thomas Jefferson as a disreputable person as to the character of anybody is utterly without value. In my judgment, the testimony of Mr. Thorburn should be thrown aside as wholly unworthy of belief.
Your next witness is the Rev J.D. Wickham, D D , who tells what an elder in his church said. This elder said that Paine passed his last days on his farm at New Rochelle with a solitary female attendant. This is not true. He did not pass his last days at New Rochelle. Consequently this pious elder did not see him during his last days at that place. Upon this elder we prove an alibi Mr. Paine passed his last days in the City of New York, in a house upon Columbia street. The story of the Rev. J. D. Wickham, D D, is simply false.
The next competent false witness is the Rev. Charles Hawley, D D., who proceeds to state that the story of the Rev. J. D. Wickham, D D., is corroborated by older citizens of New Rochelle. The names of these ancient residents are withheld. According to these unknown witnesses, the account given by the deceased elder was entirely correct. But as the particulars of Mr. Paine's conduct "was too loathsome to be described in printing we are left entirely in the dark as to what he really did.
While at New Rochelle Mr. Paine lived with Mr. Purdy-with Mr Dean-with Captain Pelton, and with Mr Staple. It is worthy of note that all of these gentlemen give the lie direct to the statements of "older residents" and ancient citizens spoken of by the Rev Charles Hawley, D D , and leave him with his "loathsome particulars" existing in his own mind.
The next gentleman you bring upon the stand is W H. Ladd, who quotes from the memoirs of Stephen Grellet. This gentleman also has the misfortune to be dead. According to his account, Mr. Paine made his recantation to a servant girl of his by the name of Mary Roscoe, to this girl, according to the account, Mr. Paine uttered the wish that all who read his book had burned it. I believe there is a mistake in the name of this girl. Her name was probably Mary Hinsdale, as it was once claimed that Paine made the same remarks to her; but this point I shall notice hereafter.
These are your witnesses, and the only ones you bring forward to support your charge that Thomas Paine lived a drunken and beastly life, and died a drunken, cowardly and beastly death. All these calumnies are found in a life of Paine by a Mr Cheetham, the convicted libeler already referred to. Mr Cheetham was an enemy of the man whose life he pretended to write.
In order to show you the estimation in which Mr Cheetham was held by Mr Paine, I will give you a copy of a letter that throws light upon this point. October 28, 1807.
Mr. Cheetham - Unless you make a public apology for the abuse and falsehood in your paper of Tuesday, October 27th, respecting me, I will prosecute you for lying
In another letter, speaking of the same man, Mr. Paine says: "If an unprincipled bully cannot be reformed, he can be punished. Cheetham has been so long in the habit of giving false information that truth is to him like a foreign language."
Mr. Cheetham wrote the life of Paine to gratify his malice and to support religion. He was prosecuted for libel-was convicted and fined.
Yet the life of Paine written by this man is referred to by the Christian world as the highest authority.
As to the personal habits of Mr Paine, we have the testimony of William Carver, with whom he lived, of Mr Jarvis, the artist, with whom he lived, of Mr Staple, with whom he lived; of Mr Purdy, who was a tenant of Paine's; of Mr Burger, with whom he was intimate, of Thos Nixon and Captain Daniel Pelton, both of whom knew him well; of Amasa Woodsworth, who was with him when he died, of John Fellows, who boarded at the same house; of James Wilburn, with whom he boarded, of B F Haskin, a lawyer who was well acquainted with him and called upon him during his last illness; of Walter Morton, a friend, of Clio Rickman, who had known him many years; of Willet and Elias Hicks, Quakers, who knew him intimately and well, of Judge Herttell, H Margary, Elihu Palmer, and many others. All these testified to the fact that Mr. Paine was a temperate man. In those days nearly everybody used spirituous liquors. Paine was not an exception; but he did not drank to excess. Mr. Lovett, who kept the City Hotel, where Paine stopped, in a note to Caleb Bingham, declared that Paine drank less than any boarder he had. Against all this evidence you produce the story of Grant Thorburn-the story of the Rev. J. D. Wickham that an elder in his church told him that Paine was a drunkard, corroborated by the Rev. Charles Hawley, and an extract from Lossing's history to thy same effect. The evidence is overwhelmingly against you. Will you have the fairness to admit it? Your witnesses are merely the repeaters of the falsehoods of James Cheetham, the convicted libeler.
After all, drinking is not as bad as lying. An honest drunkard is better than a calumniator of the dead. "A remnant of old mortality, drunk, bloated, and asleep," is better than a perfectly sober defender of human slavery.
To become drunk is a virtue compared with stealing a babe from the breast of its mother.
Drunkenness is one of the beatitudes compared with editing a religious paper devoted to the defense of slavery upon the ground that it is a divine institution.
Do you really think that Paine was a drunken beast when he wrote "Common Sense"-a pamphlet that aroused three millions of people as people were never aroused by a pamphlet before? Was he a drunken beast when he wrote the "Crisis"? Was it to a drunken beast that the following letter was addressed:
ROCKY HILL, September 10, 1783.
I have learned since I have been at this place that you are at Bordentown. Whether for the sake of retirement or economy, I know not. Be it for either or both, or whatever it may, if you will come to this place and partake with me I shall be exceedingly happy to see you at it. Your presence may remind Congress of your past services to this country: and if it is in my power to impress them, command my best exertions with freedom as they will be rendered cheerfully by one who entertains a lively sense of the importance of your works, and who with much pleasure subscribes himself your sincere friend,
Did any of your ancestors ever receive a letter like that?
Do you think that Paine was a drunken beast when the following letter was received by him?
You express a wish in your letter to return to America in a national ship. Mr. Dawson, who brings over the treaty and who will present you with this letter, is charged with orders to the captain of the Maryland to receive and accommodate you back, if you can be ready to depart at such a short warning. You will in general find us returned to sentiments worthy of former times; in these it will be your glory to have steadily labored and with as much effect as any man living. That you may live long to continue your useful labors, and reap the reward in the thankfulness of nations, is my sincere prayer. Accept the assurances of my high esteem and affectionate attachment.
Did any of your ancestors ever receive a letter like that?
"It has been very generally propagated through the continent that I wrote the pamphlet 'Common Sense.' I could not have written anything in so manly and striking a style.''--JOHN ADAMS.
"A few more such flaming arguments as were exhibited at Falmouth and Norfolk, added to the sound doctrine and unanswerable reasoning contained in the pamphlet 'Common Sense' will not leave numbers at a loss to decide on the propriety of separation."-GEORGE WASHINGTON.
"It is not necessary for me to tell you how much all your countrymen--I speak of the great mass of the people-are interested in your welfare. They have not forgotten the history of their own Revolution and the difficult scenes through which they passed; nor do they review its several stages without reviving in their bosoms a due sensibility of the merits of those who served them in that great and arduous conflict. The crime of ingratitude has not yet stained, and I trust never will stain, our national character. You are considered by them as not only having rendered important services in our own Revolution but as being on a more extensive scheme the friend of human rights and a distinguished and able defender of public liberty. To the welfare of Thomas Paine the Americans are not, nor can they, be indifferent? * *
Did any of your ancestors ever receive a letter like that?
"No writer has exceeded Paine in ease and familiarity of style, in perspicuity of expression, happiness of elucidation, and in simple and unassuming language.
Was ever a letter like that written about an editor of the New York Observer?
Was it in consideration of the services of a drunken beast that the legislature of Pennsylvania presented Thomas Paine with five hundred pounds sterling?
Did the state of New York feel indebted to a drunken beast, and confer upon Thomas Paine an estate of several hundred acres?
"I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy."
"My own mind is my own church."
"It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself."
"Any system of religion that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system."
"The Word of God is the creation which we behold."
"The age of ignorance commenced with the Christian system."
"It is with a pious fraud as with a bad action-it begets a calamitous necessity of going on."
"To read the Bible without horror, we must undo everything that is tender, sympathizing and benevolent in the heart of man."
"The man does not exist who can say I have persecuted him, or that I have in any case returned evil for evil."
"Of all tyrannies that afflict mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst."
"The belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man."
"My own opinion is that those whose lives have been spent in doing good and endeavoring to make their fellow-mortals happy will be happy hereafter."
"The intellectual part of religion is a private affair between every man and his Maker, and in which no third party has any right to interfere. The practical part consists in our doing good to each other."
"No man ought to make a living by religion. One person cannot act religion for another-every person must perform it for himself."
"One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests."
"Let us propagate morality unfettered by superstition."
"God is the power, or first cause; Nature is the law, and matter is the subject acted upon."
"I believe in one God and no more, and I hope for happiness beyond this life."
"The key of heaven is not in the keeping of any set nor ought the road to it to be obstructed by any."
"My religion, and the whole of it, is the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy."
"I have yet, I believe, some years in store for I have a good state of health and a happy mind. I take care of both, by nourishing the first with temperance and the latter with abundance."
"He lives immured within the Bastille of a word."
How perfectly that sentence describes you! The Bastille in which you are immured is the word "Calvinism."
"Man has no property in man."
What a splendid motto that would have made for the New York Observer in the olden time!
"The world is my country; to do good, my religion."
I ask you again whether these splendid utterances came from the lips of a drunken beast?
DID THOMAS PAINE DIE IN DESTITUTION AND WANT?
The charge has been made, over and over again, that Thomas Paine died in want and destitution-that he was an abandoned pauper-an outcast without friends and without money. This charge is just as false as the rest.
Upon his return to this country in 1802 he was worth $30,000, according to his own statement made at that time an the following letter addressed to Clio Rickman:
MY DEAR FRIEND: Mr. Monroe, who is appointed minister extraordinary to France, takes charge of this, to be delivered to Mr Este, banker in Paris, to be forwarded to you. I arrived at Baltimore the 30th of October, and you can have no idea of the agitation which my arrival occasioned. From New Hampshire to Georgia (an extent of 1,500 miles) every newspaper was filled with applause or abuse.
My property in this country has been taken care of by my friends, and is now worth six thousand pounds sterling; which, put in the funds will bring me £400 sterling a year.
Remember me in affection and friendship to your wife and family, and in the circle of your friends. THOMAS PAINE.
A man in those days worth thirty thousand dollars was not pauper. That amount would bring an income of at least two thousand dollars per annum. Two thousand dollars then would be fully equal to five thousand dollars now.
On the 12th of July, 1809, the year in which he died, Mr. Paine made his will. From this instrument we learn that he was the owner of a valuable farm within twenty miles of New York. He also was the owner of thirty shares in the New York Phoenix Insurance Company, worth upwards of fifteen hundred dollars. Besides this, some personal property and ready money. By his will he gave to Walter Morton, and Thomas Addis Emmet, brother of Robert Emmet, two hundred dollars each, and one hundred to the widow of Elihu Palmar.
Is it possible that this will was made by a pauper-by a destitute outcast--by a man who suffered for the ordinary necessaries of life?
But suppose, for the sake of argument, that he was poor and he died a beggar, does that tend to show that the Bible is an inspired book and that Calvin did not burn Servetus? Do you really regard poverty as a crime? If Paine had died a millionaire, would you have accepted his religious opinions? If Paine had drank nothing but cold water, would you have repudiated the five cardinal points of Calvinism? Does an argument depend for its force upon the pecuniary condition of the person making it? As a matter of fact, most reformers-most men and women of genius, have been acquainted with poverty. Beneath a covering of rags have been found some of the tenderest and bravest hearts.
Owing to the attitude of the churches for the last fifteen hundred years, truth telling has not been a very lucrative business. As a rule, hypocrisy has worn the robes, and honesty the rags. That day is passing away. You cannot now answer the arguments of a man by pointing at holes in his coat. Thomas Paine attacked the church when it was powerful-when it had what was called honors to bestow-when it was the keeper of the public conscience-when it was strong and cruel. The church waited till he was dead, then attacked his reputation and his clothes. Once upon a time a donkey kicked a lion. The lion was dead.
From the persistence with which the orthodox have charged for the last sixty-eight years that Thomas Paine recanted, and that when dying he was filled with remorse and fear; from the malignity of the attack upon his personal character, I had concluded that there must be some evidence of some kind to support these charges. Even both my ideas of the average honor of believers in superstition-the disciples of fear-I did not quite believe that all these infamies rested solely upon poorly attested lies. I had charity enough to suppose that something had been said or done by Thomas Paine capable of being tortured into a foundation for calumnies. And I was foolish enough to think that even you would be willing to fairly examine the pretended evidence said to sustain these charges, and give your honest conclusion to the world. I supposed that you, being acquainted with the history of your country, felt under a certain obligation to Thomas Paine for the splendid services rendered by him in the darkest days of the Revolution. It was only reasonable to suppose that you were aware that in the midnight of Valley Forge the "Crisis," by Thomas Paine, was the first star that glittered in the wide horizon of despair. I took it for granted that you knew of the bold stand taken and the brave words spoken by Thomas Paine, in the French convention, against the death of the king. I thought it probable that you, being an editor, had read the "Rights of Man"; that you knew that Thomas Paine was a champion of human liberty, that he was one of the founders and fathers of this republic, that he was one of the foremost men of his age; that he had never written a word in favor of injustice; that he was a despiser of slavery, that he abhorred tyranny in all its forms, that he was in the widest and highest sense a friend of his race; that his head was as clear as his heart was good, and that he had the courage to speak his honest thoughts. Under these circumstances I had hoped that you would for a moment forget your religious prejudices and submit to the enlightened judgment of the world the evidence you had, or could obtain, affecting in any way the character of so great and so generous a man. This you have refused to do. In my judgment, you have mistaken the temper of even your own readers. A large majority of the religious people of this country have, to a considerable extent, outgrown the prejudices of their fathers. They are willing to know the truth, and the whole truth, about the life and death of Thomas Paine. They will not thank you for having presented them the moss-covered, the maimed and distorted traditions of ignorance, prejudice and credulity. By this course you will convince them not of the wickedness of Paine, but of your own unfairness. What crime had Thomas Paine committed that he should have feared to die? The only answer you can give is, that he denied only the inspiration of the Scriptures. If this is a crime, the civilized world is filled with criminals. The pioneers of human thought-the intellectual readers of the world-the foremost men in every science-the kings of literature and art-those who stand in the front rank of investigation-the men who are civilizing, elevating, instructing and refining mankind, are to-day unbelievers in the dogma of inspiration. Upon this question the intellect of Christendom agrees with the conclusions reached by the genius of Thomas Paine. Centuries ago a noise was made for the purpose of frightening mankind. Orthodoxy is the echo of that noise.
The man who now regards the Old Testament as in any sense a sacred or inspired book is, in my judgment, an intellectual and moral deformity. There is in it so much that is cruel, ignorant and ferocious that it is to me a matter of amazement that it was ever thought to be the work of a most moral Deity.
As it was a question of inspiration Thomas Paine gave his honest opinion. Can it be that to give an honest opinion causes a man to die in terror and despair? Why should it be taken for granted that Thomas Paine, who devoted his life to the sacred cause of freedom, should have been hissed at in the hour of death by the snakes of conscience, while editors of Presbyterian papers who defended slavery as a divine institution, and cheerfully justified the stealing of babes from the breasts of mothers, are supposed to have passed smilingly from the earth to embraces of angels? Why should you think that the heroic author of the "Rights of Man" should shudderingly dread to leave this "bank and the shoal of time," while Calvin, dripping with the blood of Servetus, was anxious to be judged of God? Is it possible that the persecutors the instigators of the massacre of St. Bartholomew-the inventors and users of thumb-screws, and iron boots, and iron racks-the burners and tearers of human flesh-the stealers, whippers and enslavers of men-the buyers and beaters of babes and mothers-the founders of inquisitions the makers of chains, the builders of dungeons, the slanders of the living and the calumniators of the dead, all died in the odor of sanctity, with white, forgiven hands folded upon the breasts of peace, while the destroyers of prejudice the apostles of humanity-the soldiers of liberty-the breakers of fetters-the creators of light-died surrounded with the fierce fiends of fear?
In your attempt to destroy the character of Thomas Paine you have failed, and have succeeded only in leaving a stain upon your own. You have written words as cruel, bitter heartless as the creed of Calvin. Hereafter you will stand in the pillory of history as a defamer-a calumniator of the dead. You will be known as the man who said that Thomas Paine, the "Author Hero," lived a drunken, cowardly and beastly life, and died a drunken and beastly death.
These infamous words will be branded upon the forehead of your reputation. They will be remembered against you when all else you may have uttered shall have passed from the memory of men.
ROBERT G. INGERSOLL.
THE OBSERVER'S SECOND ATTACK.
(New York Observer, Nov. 1, 1877.)
In the Observer of September 27th, in response to numerous calls from different parts of the country for information, and in fulfillment of a promise, we presented a mass of testimony, chiefly from the persons with whom we had been personally acquainted, establishing the truth of our assertions in regard to the dissolute life and miserable end of Paine. It was not a pleasing subject for discussion, and an apology, or at least an explanation, is due to our readers for resuming it, and for occupying so much space, or any space in exhibiting the truth and the proofs in regard to the character of a man who had become so despised by his intemperance, and so vile in his habits, as to be excluded, for many years before and up to the time of his death, from all decent society.
Our reasons for taking up the subject at all, and for presenting at this time so much additional testimony in regard to the facts of the case, are these: At different periods for the last fifty years, reports have been made by the Infidels to revive and honor the memory of one whose friends would honor him post by suffering his name to sink into oblivion, if that were possible. About two years since, Rev. O. B. Frothingham, of this city, came to their aid, and undertook a sort of Championship of Paine, making in a public discourse this statement: "No private character has been more foully calumniated in the name of God than that of Thomas Paine." (Mr. Frothingham, it will be remembered, is the one who recently, in a public discourse announced the downfall of Christianity, although he very kindly made the allowance that, "it may be a thousand years before its decay will be visible to all eyes." It is our private opinion that it will be at least a thousand and one.) Rev. John W. Chadwick, a minister of the same order of unbelief, who signs himself "Minister of the Second Unitarian Society in Brooklyn," has devoted two discourses to the same end, eulogizing Paine. In one of these, which we have before us in a handsomely printed pamphlet, entitled "Method and Value of his (Paine's) Religious Teachings," he says, "Christian usage has determined that an Infidel means one who does not believe in Christianity as a super natural religion; in the Bible as a supernatural book; in Jesus as a supernatural person. And in this sense Paine was an Infidel, and so, thank God, am I." It is proper to add that Unitarians generally decline all responsibility for the utterances of both of these men, and that they compose a denomination, or rather two denominations of their own.
There is also a certain class of Infidels who are not quite prepared to meet the odium that attaches to the name; they call themselves Christians, but their sympathies are all with the enemies of Christianity, and they are not always able to conceal it. They have not the courage of their opinions, like Mr. Frothingham and Mr. Chadwick, and they work only sideways toward the same end. We have been no little amused since our last article on this subject appeared, to read some of the articles that have been written on the other side, though professedly on no side, and to observe how sincerely these men deprecate the discussion of the character of Paine, as an unprofitable topic. It never appeared to them unprofitable when the discussion was on the other side.
Then, too, we have for months past been receiving letters from different parts of the country, asking authentic information on the subject and stating that the followers of Paine are making extraordinary efforts to circulate his writings against the Christian religion, and in order to give currency to these writings they are endeavoring to rescue his name from the disgrace into which it sank during the latter years of his life. Paine spent several of his last years in furnishing a commentary upon his Infidel principles. This commentary was contained in his besotted, degraded life and miserable end, but his friends do not wish the commentary to go out in connection with his writings. They prefer to have them read without the comments by their author. Hence this anxiety to free the great apostle of Infidelity from the obloquy which his life brought upon his name; to represent him as a pure noble, virtuous man, and to make it appear that he died a peaceful, happy death, just like a philosopher.
But what makes the publication of the facts in the case still more imperative at this time is the wholesale accusation brought against the Christian public by the friends and admirers of Paine. Christian ministers as a class, and Christian Journals are expressly accused of falsifying history, of defaming "the mighty dead!" (meaning Paine,) etc. In the face of all these accusations it cannot be out of place to state the facts and to fortify the statement by satisfactory evidence, as we are abundantly able to do.
The two points on which we proposed to produce the testimony are, the character of Paine's life (referring of course to his last residence in this country, for no one has intimated that he had sunk into such besotted drunkenness until about the time of his return to the United States in 1802), and the real character of his death as consistent with such a life, and as marked further by the cowardliness which has been often exhibited by Infidels in the same circumstances.
It is nothing at all to the purpose to show, as his friends are fond of doing, that Paine rendered important service to the cause of American Independence. This is not the point under discussion and is not denied. No one ever called in question the valuable services that Benedict Arnold rendered to the country in the early part of the Revolutionary War, but this, with true Americans, does not suffice to cast a shade of loveliness or even to spread a mantle of charity over his subsequent career. Whatever share Paine had in the personal friendship of the Fathers of the Revolution he forfeited by his subsequent life of beastly drunkenness and degradation, and on this account as well as on account of his blasphemy he was shunned by all decent people. We wish to make one or two corrections of misstatements by Paine's advocates, on which a vast amount of argument has been simply wasted. We have never stated in any form, nor have we ever supposed, that Paine actually renounced his Infidelity. The accounts agree in stating that he died a blaspheming Infidel, and his horrible death we regard as one of the fruits, the fitting complement of his Infidelity. We have never seen anything that encouraged the hope that he was not abandoned of God in his last hours. But we have no doubt, on the other hand, that having become a wreck in body and mind through his intemperance, abandoned of God, deserted by his Infidel companions, and dependent upon Christian charity for the attentions he received, miserable beyond description in his condition, and seeing nothing to hope for in the future he was afraid to die, and was ready to call upon God and upon Christ for mercy, and ready perhaps in the next minute to blaspheme. This is what we referred to in speaking of Paine's death as cowardly. It is shown in the testimony we have produced, and still more fully in that which we now present. The most wicked men are ready to call upon God in seasons of great peril, and sometimes ask for Christian ministrations when in extreme illness; but they are often ready on any alleviation of distress to turn to their wickedness again, in the expressive language of Scripture, "as the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire."
We have never stated or intimated, nor, so far as we are aware, has any one of our correspondents stated, that Paine died in poverty. It has been frequently and truthfully stated that Paine was dependent on Christian charity for the attentions he received in his last days, and so he was. His infidel companions forsook him and Christian hearts and hands ministered to his wants, notwithstanding the blasphemies of the deathbed.
Nor has one of our correspondents stated, as alleged, that Paine died at New Rochelle. The Rev. Dr. Wickham, who was a resident of that place nearly fifty years ago, and who was perfectly familiar with the facts of his life, wrote that Paine spent "his latter days" on the farm presented to him by the State of New York, which was strictly true, but made no reference to it as the place of his death. Such misrepresentations serve to show how myth the advocates of Paine admire "truth."
With these explanations we produce further evidence in regard to the manner of Paine's life and the character of his death, both of which we have already characterized in appropriate terms, as the following testimony will show.
In regard to Paine's "personal habits," even before his return to this country, and particularly his aversion to soap and water, Elkana Watson, a gentleman of the highest social position, who resided in France during a part of the Revolutionary War, and who was the personal friend of Washington, Franklin, and other patriots of the period, makes some incidental statements in his "Men and Times of the Revolution."
Though eulogizing Paine's efforts in behalf of American Independence, he describes him as "coarse and uncouth in his manners, loathsome in his appearance, and a disgusting egotist." On Paine's arrival at Nantes, the Mayor and other distinguished citizens called upon him to pay their respects to the American patriot Mr. Watson says: "He was soon rid of his respectable visitors, who left the room with marks of astonishment and disgust." Mr. W., after much entreaty, and only by promising him a bundle of newspapers to read while undergoing the operation, succeeded in prevailing on Paine to "stew, for an hour, in a hot bath." Mr. W. accompanied Paine to the bath, and "instructed the keeper in French (which Paine did not understand) gradually to increase the heat of the water until 'le Monsieur serait bien bouille'" (until the gentleman shall be well boiled); and adding that "he became so much absorbed in his reading that he was nearly parboiled before leaving the bath, much to his improvement and my satisfaction."
William Carver has been cited as a witness in behalf of Paine, and particularly as to his "personal habits." In a letter to Paine, dated December 2, 1776, he bears the following testimony:
"A respectable gentleman from New Rochelle came to see me a few days back, and said that everybody was tired of you there, and no one would undertake to board and lodge you. I thought this was the case, as I found you at the tavern in a most miserable situation. You appeared as if you had not been shaved for a fortnight, and as to the shirt, it could only be said that you had one on. It has only the remains of one, and this, likewise, appeared not to have been off your back for a fortnight, and was nearly the color of tanned leather; and you had the most disagreeable smell possible; just like that of our poor beggars in England. Do you remember the pains I took to clean you? That I got a tub of warm water and soap and washed you from head to foot, and this I had to do three times before I could get you clean." (And then follow most disgusting details.)
"You say, also, that you found your own liquors during the time you boarded with me! but you should have said, 'I found only a small part of the liquor I drank during my stay with you: this part I purchased of John Fellows, which was a demijohn of brandy containing four gallons, and this did not serve me three weeks.' This can be proved, and I mean not to say anything that I cannot prove; for I hold truth as a precious jewel. It is a well-known fact, that you drank one quart of brandy per day, at my expense, during the different times that you have boarded with me, the demijohn above mentioned, excepted, and the last fourteen weeks you were sick. Is not this a supply of liquor for dinner and supper?"
This chosen witness in behalf of Paine, closes his letter, which is full of loathsome descriptions of Paine's manner of life, as
"Now, sir, I think I have drawn a complete portrait of your character; yet to enter upon every minutia would be to give a history of your life, and to develop the fallacious mask of hypocrisy and deception under which you have acted in your political as well as moral capacity of life.
(Signed) "WILLIAM CARVER."
Carver had the same opinion of Paine to his dying day. When an old man and an infidel of the Paine type and habits, he was visited by the Rev. E. F. Hatfield, D. D., of this city, who writes to us of his interview with Carver, under date of Sept. 27, 1877:
"I conversed with him nearly an hour. I took special pains to learn from him all that I could about Paine, whose landlord he had been for eighteen months. He spoke of him as base and shameless drunkard, utterly destitute of moral principle. His denunciations of the man were perfectly fearful, and fully confirmed, in my apprehension, all that had been written of Paine's immorality and repulsiveness."
Cheetham's Life of Paine, which was published the year that he died and which has passed through several editions (we have three of them now before us), describes a man lost to all moral sensibility and to all sense of decency, a habitual drunkard, and it is simply incredible that a book should have appeared so soon after the death of its subject and should have been so frequently republished without being at once refuted, if the testimony were not substantially true. Many years later, when it was found necessary to bolster up the reputation of Paine, Cheetham's Memoirs were called a pack of lies. If only one-tenth part of what he publishes circumstantially in his volume, as facts in regard to Paine, were true, all that has been written against him in later years does not begin to set forth the degraded character of the man's life. And with all that has been written on the subject we see no good reason to doubt the substantial accuracy of Cheetham's portrait of the man whom he knew so well.
Dr. J.W. Francis, well known as an eminent physician of this city, in his Reminiscenes of New York, says of Paine:
"He who in his early days, had been associated with, and had received counsel from Franklin, was, in his old age, deserted by the humblest menial; he, whose pen had proved a very sword among nations, had shaken empires, and made kings tremble, now yielded up to the mastery to the most treacherous of tyrants, King Alcohol."
The physician who attended Paine during his last illness was Dr. James R. Manly, a gentleman of the highest character. A letter of his, written in October of the year that Paine died, fully corroborates the account of his statement as recorded by Stephen Grellet an his Memoirs, which we have already printed. He writes:
"New York, October 2, 1809: I was called upon by accident to visit Mr. Paine, on the 25th of February last, and found him indisposed with fever, and very apprehensive of an attack of apoplexy, as he stated that he had that disease before, and at this time felt a high degree of vertigo, and was unable to help himself as he had hitherto done, on account of an intense pain above the eyes. On inquiry of the attendants I was told that three or four days previously he had concluded to dispense with his usual quantity of accustomed stimulus and that he had on that day resumed it. To the want of his usual drink they attributed his illness, and it is highly probable that the usual quantity operating upon a state of system more excited from the above privations, was the cause of the symptoms of which he then complained. * * * And here let me be permitted to observe (lest blame might attach to these whose business it was to pay any particular attention to his cleanliness of person) that it was absolutely impossible to effect that purpose. Cleanliness appeared to make no part of his comfort; he seemed to have a singular aversion to soap and water; he would never ask to be washed, and when he was he would always make objections; and at was not unusual to wash and to dress him clean very much against his inclinations. In this deplorable state, with confirmed dropsy, attended with frequent cough, vomiting and his cough, he continued growing from bad to worse till the morning of the 8th of June, when he died. Though I may remark that during the last three weeks of his life his situation was such that his decease was confidently expected every day, his ulcers having assumed a gangrenous appearance, being excessively fetid, and discolored blisters having taken place on the soles of his feet without any ostensible cause, which baffled the usual attempts to arrest their progress; and when we consider his former habits, his advanced age, the feebleness of his constitution, his constant habit of using ardent spirits ad libitum till the commencement of his last illness, so far from wondering that he died so soon, we are constrained to ask How did he live so long? Concerning his conduct during his disease I have not much to remark, though the little I have may be somewhat interesting. Mr. Paine professed to be abode the fear of death, and a great part of his conversation was principally directed to give the impression that he was perfectly willing to leave this world, and yet some parts of his conduct were with difficulty reconcilable with his belief. In the first stages of his illness he was satisfied to be left alone during the day, but he required some person to be with him at night, urging as reason that he was afraid that he should die when unattended, and at this period his deportment and his principle seemed to be consistent, so much so that a stranger would judge from some of the remarks he would make that he was an Infidel. I recollect being with him at night, watching; he was very apprehensive of a speedy dissolution, and suffered great distress of body, and perhaps of mind (for he was waiting the event of an application to the Society of Friends for permission that his corpse might be deposited in their grave ground, and had reason to believe that the request might be refused), when he remarked in these words, 'I think I can say what they made Jesus Christ to say-"My God! My God! why hast thou forsaken me?'" He went on to observe on the want of that respect which he conceived he merited, when I observed to him that I thought his corpse should be matter of least concern to him; that those whom he would leave behind him would see that he was properly interred, and, further that it would be of little consequence to me where I was deposited provided I was buried; upon which he answered that he had nothing else to talk about, and that he would as lief talk of his death as of anything, but that he was not so indifferent about his corpse as I appeared to be.
"During the latter part of his life, though his conversation was equivocal, his conduct was singular; he could not be left alone night or day; he not only required to have some person with him, but he must see that he or she was there, and would not allow his curtain to be closed at any time; and if, as it would sometimes unavoidably happen, he was left alone, he would scream and halloo until some person came to him. When relief from pain would admit, he seemed thoughtful and contemplative, his eyes being generally closed, and his hands folded upon his breast, although he never slept without the assistance of an anodyne. There was something remarkable in his conduct about the period (which comprises about two weeks immediately preceding his death), particularly when we reflect that Thomas Paine was the author of the 'Age of Reason.'
"He would call out during his paroxysms of distress, without intermission, 'O Lord help me! God help me! Jesus Christ help me! Lord help me!' etc., repeating the same expression without the least variation, in a tone of voice that would alarm the house. It was this conduct which induced me to think that he had abandoned his former opinions, and I was more inclined to that belief when I understood from his nurse (who is a very serious and, I believe, pious woman), that he would occasionally inquire, when he saw her engaged with a book, what she was reading, and, being answered, and at the same time asked whether she would read aloud, he assented, and would appear to give particular attention.
"I took occasion during the nights of the 5th and 6th of June to test the strength of his opinions respecting revelation.
"I purposely made him a very late visit; it was a time which seemed to suit exactly with my errand; it was midnight, he was in great distress, constantly exclaiming in the words above mentioned; when after a considerable preface, I addressed him in the following manner, the nurse being present: 'Mr. Paine, your opinions, by a large portion of the community, have been treated with deference, you have never been in the habit of mixing in your conversation words of coarse meaning; you have never indulged in the practice of profane swearing; you must be sensible that we are acquainted with your religious opinions as they are given to the world. What must we think of your present conduct? Why do you call upon Jesus Christ to help you? Do you believe that He can help you? Do you believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ? Come, now, answer me honestly. I want an answer from the lips of a dying man, for I verily believe that you will not live twenty-four hours'; I waited some time at the end of every question; he did not answer, but ceased to exclaim in the above manner. Again I addressed him: 'Mr. Paine, you have not answered my questions; will you answer them? Allow me to ask again, do you believe? or let me qualify the question, do you wish to believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God?' After a pause of some minutes, he answered, 'I have no wish to believe on that subject.' I then left him, and knew not whether he afterward spoke to any person on any subject, though he lived, as I before observed, till the morning of the 8th. Such conduct, under usual circumstances, I conceive absolutely unaccountable, though, with diffidence, I would remark, not so much so in the present instance; for though the just necessary and general result of conviction be a sincere wish to atone for evil committed, yet it may be a question worthy of able consideration whether excessive pride of opinion, consummate vanity, and inordinate self-love might not prevent or retard that otherwise natural consequence. For my own part, I believe that had not Thomas Paine been such a distinguished Infidel he would have left less equivocal evidence of a change of opinion. Concerning the persons who visited Mr. Paine in his distress as personal friends, I heard very little, though I may observe that their number was small, and of that number there were not wanting those who endeavored to support him in his deistical opinions, and to encourage him to 'die like a man,' to 'hold fast his integrity,' lest Christians, or as they were pleased to term them, hypocrites, might take advantage of his weakness, and furnish themselves with a weapon by which they might hope to destroy their glorious system of morals. Numbers visited him from motives of benevolence and Christian charity, endeavoring to effect a change of mind in respect to his religious sentiments. The labor of such was apparently lost, and they pretty generally received such treatment from him as none but good men would risk a second time, though some of those persons called frequently."
The following testimony will be new to most of our readers. It is from a letter written by Bishop Fenwick (Roman Catholic Bishop of Boston), containing a full account of a visit which he paid Paine in his last illness. It was printed in the United States Catholic Magazine for 1846; in the Catholic Herald of Philadelphia, October 15, 1846; in a supplement to the Hartford Courant, October 23, 1847; and in Littell's Living Age for January 22, 1848, from which we copy. Bishop Fenwick writes:
"A short time before Paine died I was sent for by him. He was prompted to this by a poor Catholic woman who went to see him in his sickness, and who told him, among other things, that in his wretched condition if anybody could do him any good it would be a Roman Catholic priest. This woman was an American convert (formerly a Shaking Quakeress) whom I had received into the Church but a few weeks before. She was the bearer of this message to me from Paine. I stated this circumstance to F. Kohlmann, at breakfast, and requested him to accompany me. After some solicitation on my part he agreed to do so, at which I was greatly rejoiced, because I was at the time quite young and inexperienced in the ministry, and was glad to have his assistance, as I knew, from the great reputation of Paine, that I should have to do with one of the most impious as well as infamous of men. We shortly after set out for the house at Greenwich, where Paine lodged, and on the way agreed on a mode of proceeding with him.
"We arrived at the house; a decent looking elderly woman (probably his house-keeper) came to the door and inquired whether we were the Catholic priests, for said she, 'Mr. Paine has been so much annoyed of late by other denominations calling upon him that he has left express orders with me to admit no one to-day but the clergymen of the Catholic Church.' Upon assuring her that we were Catholic clergymen she opened the door and showed us into the parlor. She then left the room and shortly after returned to inform us that Paine was asleep, and, at the same time, expressed a wish that we would not disturb him, 'For,' said she, 'he is always in a bad humor when roused out of his sleep. It is better we wait a little till he be awake.' We accordingly sat down and resolved to wait a more favorable moment. 'Gentlemen,' said the lady, after having taken her seat also, 'I really wish you may succeed with Mr. Paine, for he is laboring under great distress of mind ever since he was informed by his physicians that he cannot possibly live and must die shortly. He sent for you to-day because he was told that if any one could do him good you might. Possibly he may think you know of some remedy which his physicians are ignorant of. He is truly to be pitied. His cries when he is left alone are heartrending. "O Lord help me!" he will exclaim during his paroxysms of distress-"God help me Jesus Christ help me!" repeating the same expressions without the least variation, in a tone of voice that would alarm the house. Sometimes he will say, "Oh God, what have I done to suffer so much?" then, shortly after, "But there is no God," and again a little after, "Yet, if there should be, what would become of me hereafter?" Thus he will continue for some time, when on a sudden he will scream, as if in terror and agony, and call out for me by name. On one of these occasions, which are very frequent, I went to him and inquired what he wanted "Stay with me," he replied, "for God's sake, for I cannot bear to be left alone." I then observed that I could not always be with him, as I had much to attend in the house "Then," said he, send even a child to stay with me, for it is hell to be alone" I never saw,' she concluded, 'a more unhappy, a more forsaken man. It seems he cannot reconcile himself to die.'
"Such was the conversation of the woman who had received us, and who probably had been employed to nurse and take care of him during his illness. She was a Protestant, yet seemed very desirous that we should afford him some relief in his state of abandonment, bordering on complete despair. Having remained thus some time in the parlor, we at length heard a noise in the adjoining passageway, which induced us to believe that Mr Paine, who was sick in that room, had awoke. We accordingly proposed to proceed thither, which was assented to by the woman, and she opened the door for us. On entering we found him just getting out of his slumber. A more wretched sight in appearance I never beheld. He was lying in a bed sufficiently decent of itself, but at present besmeared with filth; his look was that of a man greatly tortured in mind, his eyes haggard, his countenance forbidding, and his whole appearance that of one whose better days had been one continued scene of debauch. His only nourishment at this time, as we were informed, was nothing more than milk punch, in which he indulged to the full extent of his weak state. He had partaken, undoubtedly, but very recently of it, as the sides and corners of his mouth exhibited very unequivocal traces of it, as well as of blood, which had also followed in the track and left its mark on the pillow. His face, to a certain extent, had also been besmeared with it.'
Immediately upon their making known the object of their visit, Paine interrupted the speaker by saying "That's enough, sir; that's enough," and again interrupted him, "I see what you would be about. I wish to hear no more from you, sir. My mind is made up on that subject. I look upon the whole of the Christian scheme to be a tissue of absurdities and lies, and Jesus Christ to be nothing more than a cunning knave and imposter." He drove them out of the room, exclaiming "Away with you and your God, too, leave the room instantly; all that you uttered are lies-filthy lies; and if I had a little more time I would prove as I did about your imposter, Jesus Christ."
This, we think, will suffice. We have a mass of letters containing statements confirmatory of what we have published in regard to the life and death of Paine, but nothing more can be required.
INGERSOLL'S SECOND REPLY.
PEORIA, NOV. 2d, 1877.
To the Editor of the New York Observer:
You ought to have honesty enough to admit that you did, in your paper of July 19th, offer to prove that the absurd story that Thomas Paine died in terror and agony on account of the religious opinions he had expressed, was true. You ought to have fairness enough to admit that you called upon me to deposit one thousand dollars with an honest man, that you might, by proving that Thomas Paine did die in terror, obtain the money.
You ought to have honor enough to admit that you challenged me and that you commenced the controversy concerning Thomas Paine.
You ought to have goodness enough to admit that you were mistaken in the charges you made.
You ought to have manhood enough to do what you falsely asserted that Thomas Paine did-you ought to recant. You ought to admit publicly that you slandered the dead; that you falsified history; that you defamed the defenseless; that you deliberately denied what you had published in your own paper. There is an old saying to the effect that open confession is good for the soul. To you is presented a splendid opportunity of testing the truth of this saying.
Nothing has astonished me more than your lack of common honesty exhibited in this controversy. In your last, you quote from Dr. J. W. Frances. Why did you leave out that portion in which Dr Francis says that Cheetham with settled malignity wrote the life of Paine? Why did you leave out that part in which Dr. Francis says that Cheetham in the same way slandered Alexander Hamilton and DeWitt Clinton? Is it your business to suppress the truth? Why did you not publish the entire letter of Bishop Fenwick? Was it because it proved beyond all cavil that Thomas Paine did not recant? Was it because, in thy light of that letter, Mary Roscoe, Mary Hinsdale, and Grant Thorburn appeared unworthy of belief? Dr. J. W. Frances says in the same article from which you quoted, "Paine clung to his infidelity until the last moment of his life." Why did you not publish that? It was the first line immediately above what you did quote. You must have seen it. Why did you suppress it? A lawyer doing a thing of this character is denominated a shyster. I do not know the appropriate word to designate a theologian guilty of such an act.
You brought forward three witnesses pretending to have a personal knowledge about the life and death of Thomas Paine -Grant Thorburn, Mary Roscoe and Mary Hinsdale. In my reply I took the ground that Mary Roscoe and Mary Hinsdale must have been the same person. I thought it impossible that Paine should have had a conversation with Mary Roscoe, and then one precisely like it with Mary Hinsdale. Acting upon this conviction, I proceeded to show that the conversation never could have happened-that at was absurdly false to say that Paine asked the opinion of a girl as to his works who had never read but little of them. I then showed by the testimony of William Cobbett that he visited Mary Hinsdale in 1819, taking with him a statement concerning the recantation of Paine given him by Mr. Collins, and that upon being shown this statement she said that "it was so long ago that she would not speak positively to any part of the matter-that she would not say any part of the paper was true." At that time she knew nothing, and remembered nothing. I also showed that she was a kind of standing witness to prove that others recanted. Willet Hicks denounced her as unworthy of belief.
To-day the following from the New York World was received, showing that was right in my conjecture:
TOM PAINE'S DEATHBED.
To the Editor of the World:
Sir-I see by your paper that Bob Ingersoll discredits Mary Hinsdale's story of the scenes which occurred at the deathbed of Thomas Paine. No one who knew that good lady would for one moment doubt her veracity or question her testimony. Both she and her husband were Quaker preachers, and well known and respected inhabitants of New York city. Ingersoll is right in his conjecture that Mary Roscoe and Mary Hinsdale was the same person. Here maiden name was Roscoe, and she married Henry Hinsdale. My mother was a Roscoe, a niece of Mary Roscoe, and lived with her for some time. I have heard her relate the story of Tom Paine's dying remorse, as told by her aunt, who was a witness to it. She says (in a letter I have just received from her), "he (Tom Paine) suffered fearfully from remorse and renounced his infidel principles, calling on God to forgive him, and wishing his pamphlets and books to be burned, saying he could not die in peace until it was done." (Rev.) A. W. CORNELL.
Harpersville, New York.
You will notice that the testimony of Mary Hinsdale has been drawing interest singe 1809, and has materially increased. If Paine "suffered fearfully from remorse, renounced his infidel opinions and called on God to forgive him," it is hardly generous for the Christian world to fasten the fangs of malice in the flesh of his reputation. So Mary Roscoe was Mary Hinsdale, and as Mary Hinsdale has been shown by her own admission to Mr. Cobbett to have known nothing of the matter; and as Mary Hinsdale was not, according to Willet Hicks worthy of belief-as she told a falsehood of the same kind about Mary Lockwood, and was, according to Mr. Collins, addicted to the use of opium-this disposes of her and her testimony.
There remains upon the stand Grant Thorburn. Concerning this witness, I received yesterday from the eminent biographer and essayist James Parton the following epistle:
Col. R. G. Ingersoll:
Touching Grant Thorburn, I personally know him to have been a dishonest man. At the age of ninety-two he copied with trembling hand a piece from a newspaper and brought it to the office of the Home Journal as his own. It was I who received it and detected the deliberate forgery. If you are ever going to continue this subject I will give you the exact facts. Fervently yours, JAMES PARTON.
After this, you are welcome to what remains of Grant Thorburn.
There is one thing that I have noticed during this controversy regarding Thomas Paine. In no instance that I now call to mind has any Christian writer spoken respectfully of Mr. Paine. All have taken particular pains to call him "Tom" Paine. Is it not a little strange that religion should make men so coarse and ill-natured?
I have often wondered what these same gentlemen would say if I should speak of the men eminent in the annals of Christianity in the same way. What would they say if I should write about "Tim" Dwight, old "Ad" Cark, "Tom" Scott, "Jim" McKnight, "Bill" Hamilton, "Dick" Whately, "Bill" Paley, and "Jack" Calvin? They would say of me then just what I think of them now.
Even if we have religion, do not let us try to get along without good manners. Rudeness is exceedingly unbecoming, even in a saint. Persons who forgive their enemies ought, to say the least, treat with politeness those who have never injured them.
It is exceedingly gratifying to me that I have compelled you to say that "Paine died a blaspheming infidel." Hereafter it is to be hoped nothing will be heard about his having recanted. As an answer to such slander his friends can confidently quote the following from the New York Observer of November 1st, 1877; "We have never stated in any form, nor have we ever supposed that Paine actually renounced his Infidelity. The accounts agree in stating that he died a blaspheming Infidel."
This for all coming time will refute the slanders of the churches yet to be.
Right here allow me to ask: "If you never supposed that Paine renounced his infidelity, why did you try to prove by Mary Hinsdale that which you believed to be untrue?"
From the bottom of my heart I thank myself for having compelled you to admit that Thomas Paine did not recant.
For the purpose of verifying your own admission concerning the death of Mr. Paine, permit me to call your attention to the following affidavit:
WABASH, INDIANA, October 27, 1877.
Col. R. G. Ingersoll:
Dear Sir: The following statement of facts is at your disposal: In the year 1833 Willet Hicks made a visit to Indiana and stayed over night at my father's house, four miles east of Richmond. In the morning at breakfast my mother asked Willet Hicks the following questions:
"Was thee with Thomas Paine during his last sickness?"
Mr. Hicks said: "I was with him every day the latter part of his last sickness."
"Did he express any regret in regard to writing the 'Age of Reason,' as the published accounts said he did-those accounts that have the credit of emanating from his Catholic housekeeper?"
Mr. Hicks replied: "He did not in any way, by word or action."
"Did he call on God or Jesus Christ, asking either of them to forgive his sins, or did he curse them or either of them?"
Mr. Hicks answered: "He did not. He died as easy as anyone I ever saw die, and I have seen many die in my time."
WILLIAM B. BARNES.
Subscribed and sworn to before me October 27, 1877.
WARREN BIGLER, Notary Public.
You say in your last that "Thomas Paine was abandoned of God." So far as this controversy is concerned, it seems to me that in that sentence you have most graphically described your own condition.
Wishing you success in all honest undertakings, I remain, Yours truly,
ROBERT G. INGERSOLL.