Article #183 - Unknown subject



            At the last meeting of this Lyceum was read an essay in commemoration of Thomas

Paine -- an anniversary eulogy on this individual. It was short & graphic. No doubt greatly

epitomised on account of the probable impatience of the audience to be otherwise entertained. Had the whole day been spent in reflection on & investigations into the life, character & magnanimous efforts of Thomas Paine, it would have reflected much credit on this association & have been a tribute due that unsophisticated Philosopher & devoted Philanthropist. Especially is this tribute due from those who love Truth, Liberty, Equality. Yet this day came, probably, without the knowledge to many (in this enlightened assembly in one of the most liberal neighborhoods of the most enlightened Republic) of it being the anniversary of their

self-sacrificing benefactor. Had not Thomas Paine after years of serious investigation written

his “Age of Reason,” no doubt his name would have been as dear to the heart of every Amer-

ican as that of Adams, Jefferson & Washington. But how is it throughout this would be

enlightened land of freedom? When mentioned every child is taught to lisp the name “Tom Paine”

as though it identified some vile malefactor--some hideous monster in human form...Mr. Paine is unpopular. He and his writings have been grossly misrepresented. The odium of a fearful, intriguing clergy has been heaped upon him -- for what? because he hasreasoned on those things at which divines acting through pious faud or holy ignorance, desire us to turn up our eyes in wonder. Because he laid before the world the results of his candid honest investigations asking the people to think, inquire -- to use the great characteristic between man & beast -- his reason.

So it has ever been. The great & good have ever been unpopular -- have been persecuted by contemporaries from time immemorial. We have but to take a retrospective glance o’er Society from the time light first began to dawn in Greece to find thousands of grievous instances. The conscientious, inspired with the love of Truth, who have assayed [sic] to make farther inquiry -- to make any progressive moral movement untouched by predecessors have incurred the sanctimonious intolerance of religionists. The very earth has been dyed in blood during the perturbed [?] ebulitions of ignorance & superstition. The Rack, The Wheel, The Stake & every means which a fiendish ingenuity couild devise have been applied to add torture to the dying agonies of the good & [??], who for the good of their fellow beings have attempted to dispel the distorted phantoms of a perverted imagination. But society is progressing. The U. States is in the van. Yet still this religious intolerance is everywhere visible -- even among the quiet quarrelsome Quakers of Marlborough.

            Friends of humanity, of morality, of womans elevation, of free inquiry, of equality, let me direct your attention to a devoted champion -- to one of the most brilliant luminaries in the moral galaxy, beclouded for a time by the slander of a prostituted press & sacrilegious calumny of hireling ministry. I point to Frances Wright*. Friends of Chester County, Ye that have not a mountain of prejudice resting upon you, arise, Shake off the dust generated by the mad plungings of a clergy, fearful of inquiry -- wash it from your eyes and behold her -- Yes, behold her! She needs no panegyric of mine. The truth loving have but to search her position, and she shines ever brightly in their minds. She is dear to the hearts of thousands & as the clouds of ignorance & superstition are dissipated & wafted hence by the onward breeze of progress, she will become dear to millions, but alas! too late to be alleviated from poignant pangs inflicted by her insatiate persecuters. She is no longer tormented. She has passed off the stage on which she played so admirably her ‘part.’ And though the heart be grieved to tears when reflecting on her sufferings, it soon must be glad[d]ened to a smile when remembering that she lives forever high untarnished in the memory of the Philanthropist, while her bitter detractors, who sought to blacken the brightest character, sink in shameful oblivion. But ‘tis not my design to eulogise. I know my incompetence

and wish only to refer you to her writings, her speaches [sic], which stand a living monument

of her worth & repeat the word “Inquire” which she so often reiterated. A short extract from a lecture on the “Divisions of Knowledge” will give a “birds eye view” of her character. “Must it be my misfortune to offend? bear in mind only that I do it for conscience sake -- for your sakes. I have wedded the cause of human improvement, staked on it my reputation, my fortune & my life, & as for it I knew behind me in earliest youth, the follies of my age, the luxuries of ease & European aristocracy, So do I, & so will I, persevere, even as I began & devote what remains of talent, strength,  fortune, & existence, to the same sacred cause -- the promotion of past knowledge, the establishing of just practice, the increase of human happiness.” The following ode

is from the pen of this transcendent lady

“Oh, sons of men! throw round your eyes

Upon the earth, the seas, the skies!

Say, doth not all, to every sense

Show beauty and magnificence?

See hill and vale with verdure spread!

Behold the mountain lift his head

In stature, strength, and power sublime...

[Description of nature’s beauties follows.]

All fair -- unless that world we scan

That moral world as made by man.

To all earth’s blessing, deaf & blind,

Lost to himself and to his kind

With mad presumption, Lo! he tries

To pierce the ether of the skies.

His fancy wing’d to worlds unknown,

He scorns the treasures of his own;

By fears of hell and hopes of heaven,

His noble mind to madness driven

Oh! first of all the tribes of earth

Take to a knowledge of thy worth;

Then mark the ills of human life

And heal its woes, and quench its strife.

Victim and tyrant thou, oh man!

Thy world, Thyself, thy fellows scan,

Nor forward cast an anxious eye,

Who knows to live shall know to die.”


*Frances Wright, little known to the present generation, was really the spiritual helpmate and better half of the Owens, in the socialistic revival of 1826. Our impression is, not only that she was the leading woman in the communistic movement of that period, but that she had a very important agency in starting two other movements that had far greater success and are at this moment in popular favour: anti-slavery and woman's rights. -- John Humphrey Noyes, History of American Socialism (1870)