The Age of Reason Part IIa

I HAVE mentioned in the former part of The Age of Reason that it had
long been my intention to publish my thoughts upon Religion; but that
I had originally reserved it to a later period in life, intending it
to be the last work I should undertake. The circumstances, however,
which existed in France in the latter end of the year 1793,
determined me to delay it no longer. The just and humane principles
of the Revolution which Philosophy had first diffused, had been
departed from. The Idea, always dangerous to Society as it is
derogatory to the Almighty, — that priests could forgive sins, —
though it seemed to exist no longer, had blunted the feelings of
humanity, and callously prepared men for the commission of all
crimes. The intolerant spirit of church persecution had transferred
itself into politics; the tribunals, stiled Revolutionary, supplied
the place of an Inquisition; and the Guillotine of the Stake. I saw
many of my most intimate friends destroyed; others daily carried to
prison; and I had reason to believe, and had also intimations given
me, that the same danger was approaching myself.

Under these disadvantages, I began the former part of the Age of
Reason; I had, besides, neither Bible nor Testament [It must be borne
in mind that throughout this work Paine generally means by "Bible"
only the Old Testamut, and speaks of the Now as the "Testament." —
Editor.] to refer to, though I was writing against both; nor could I
procure any; notwithstanding which I have produced a work that no
Bible Believer, though writing at his ease and with a Library of
Church Books about him, can refute. Towards the latter end of
December of that year, a motion was made and carried, to exclude
foreigners from the Convention. There were but two, Anacharsis Cloots
and myself; and I saw I was particularly pointed at by Bourdon de
l'Oise, in his speech on that motion.

Conceiving, after this, that I had but a few days of liberty, I sat
down and brought the work to a close as speedily as possible; and I
had not finished it more than six hours, in the state it has since
appeared, [This is an allusion to the essay which Paine wrote at an
earlier part of 1793. See Introduction. — Editor.] before a guard
came there, about three in the morning, with an order signed by the
two Committees of Public Safety and Surety General, for putting me in
arrestation as a foreigner, and conveying me to the prison of the
Luxembourg. I contrived, in my way there, to call on Joel Barlow, and
I put the Manuscript of the work into his hands, as more safe than in
my possession in prison; and not knowing what might be the fate in
France either of the writer or the work, I addressed it to the
protection of the citizens of the United States.

It is justice that I say, that the guard who executed this order, and
the interpreter to the Committee of General Surety, who accompanied
them to examine my papers, treated me not only with civility, but
with respect. The keeper of the 'Luxembourg, Benoit, a man of good
heart, shewed to me every friendship in his power, as did also all
his family, while he continued in that station. He was removed from
it, put into arrestation, and carried before the tribunal upon a
malignant accusation, but acquitted.

After I had been in Luxembourg about three weeks, the Americans then
in Paris went in a body to the Convention to reclaim me as their
countryman and friend; but were answered by the President, Vadier,
who was also President of the Committee of Surety General, and had
signed the order for my arrestation, that I was born in England.
[These excited Americans do not seem to have understood or reported
the most important item in Vadeer's reply, namely that their
application was "unofficial," i.e. not made through or sanctioned by
Gouverneur Morris, American Minister. For the detailed history of all
this see vol. iii. — Editor.] I heard no more, after this, from any
person out of the walls of the prison, till the fall of Robespierre,
on the 9th of Thermidor — July 27, 1794.

About two months before this event, I was seized with a fever that in
its progress had every symptom of becoming mortal, and from the
effects of which I am not recovered. It was then that I remembered
with renewed satisfaction, and congratulated myself most sincerely,
on having written the former part of The Age of Reason. I had then
but little expectation of surviving, and those about me had less. I
know therefore by experience the conscientious trial of my own
principles.

I was then with three chamber comrades: Joseph Vanheule of Bruges,
Charles Bastfni, and Michael Robyns of Louvain. The unceasing and
anxious attention of these three friends to me, by night and day, I
remember with gratitude and mention with pleasure. It happened that a
physician (Dr. Graham) and a surgeon, (Mr. Bond,) part of the suite
of General O'Hara, [The officer who at Yorktown, Virginia, carried
out the sword of Cornwallis for surrender, and satirically offered it
to Rochambcau instead of Washington. Paine loaned him 300 pounds when
he (O'Hara) left the prison, the money he had concealed in the lock
of his cell-door. — Edifor.] were then in the Luxembourg: I ask not
myself whether it be convenient to them, as men under the English
Government, that I express to them my thanks; but I should reproach
myself if I did not; and also to the physician of the Luxembourg, Dr.
Markoski.

I have some reason to believe, because I cannot discover any other,
that this illness preserved me in existence. Among the papers of
Robespierre that were examined and reported upon to the Convention by
a Committee of Deputies, is a note in the hand writing of
Robespierre, in the following words:

"Demander que Thomas Paine soit decrete d'accusation, pour l'interet
de l'Amerique autant que de la France."

[Demand that Thomas Paine be decreed of accusation, for the interest
of America, as well as of France.] From what cause it was that the
intention was not put in execution, I know not, and cannot inform
myself; and therefore I ascribe it to impossibility, on account of
that illness.

The Convention, to repair as much as lay in their power the injustice
I had sustained, invited me publickly and unanimously to return into
the Convention, and which I accepted, to shew I could bear an injury
without permitting it to injure my principles or my disposition. It
is not because right principles have been violated, that they are to
be abandoned.

I have seen, since I have been at liberty, several publications
written, some in America, and some in England, as answers to the
former part of "The Age of Reason." If the authors of these can amuse
themselves by so doing, I shall not interrupt them, They may write
against the work, and against me, as much as they please; they do me
more service than they intend, and I can have no objection that they
write on. They will find, however, by this Second Part, without its
being written as an answer to them, that they must return to their
work, and spin their cobweb over again. The first is brushed away by
accident.

They will now find that I have furnished myself with a Bible and
Testament; and I can say also that I have found them to be much worse
books than I had conceived. If I have erred in any thing, in the
former part of the Age of Reason, it has been by speaking better of
some parts than they deserved.

I observe, that all my opponents resort, more or less, to what they
call Scripture Evidence and Bible authority, to help them out. They
are so little masters of the subject, as to confound a dispute about
authenticity with a dispute about doctrines; I will, however, put
them right, that if they should be disposed to write any more, they
may know how to begin.

THOMAS PAINE.
October, 1795.

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