Rare and important autograph manuscript, signed “Thomas Paine,” eight pages on four sheets, three measuring 7.75 x 12.5 and one 7.75 x 8.75, January 1, 1803. Penned entirely in Paine’s hand, a compilation of three separate manuscripts: an apparently unfinished one-page draft of a satirical article on the vices of the ‘Prude’ and the ‘Fop’; a one-page transcription of Samuel Adams’s letter criticizing Paine’s Age of Reason, and five pages of Paine’s response (here there is a leaf missing, which would have contained the end of Adams’s letter and beginning of Paine’s response); and a short riddle.
The first manuscript, headed “Fellow Citizens,” begins, in part: “I have taken it into consideration as it hath been Queried which the Prude or the Fop is (the Most usefull in Society, and) worthy of the greatest Respect (as to the utility in society I shall pass by with few observations only) and from the two proposed characters I shall treat both Little respect. But as I am of turn Inclined to favour the Ladies. I will make some observations on behalf of the Prude, in preference to the Fop, th’o I quite freely oppose both, but except we distinguish them we can have no debate, therefore I oppose the Fop only.”
The second, most important, section begins with Adams’s letter to Paine concerning the Age of Reason, headed, “From The National Intelligence, Boston, Nov. 30th 1802.” In part: “Sir, I have frequently with pleasure reflected on your Service to my native and your adopted country, your Common Sense, and your Crisis unquestionably awaked the public mind, and led the people loudly to call for a declaration of our national independence, I therefore esteem you a warm friend to the liberty and lasting welware of the human race. But when I heard that you had turned your mind to a defence of infidelity, I felt myself much astonished, and more grieved, that you had attempted a measure so injurous to the feelings and so repugnant to the true Interest of so great a part of the citizens of the united states…I am told that some of our news papers have announced your intention to publish an additional pamphlet upon the principals of your age of Reason. Do you think that your pen, or the pen of other man can unchristianize the mass of our [citizens] or have you hopes of Converting a few of them to [assist] you in so bad a cause?” The next leaf, which would have contained the end of Adams’s letter and the beginning of Paine’s response, is absent.
The manuscript resumes in the middle of Paine’s response, in part: “With Respect to the age of Reason, which you so much condemn, and that I believe without having read it, for you say only that you have heard of it, I will inform you of a circumstance because you cannot know it by other means. I have said in the first page of the part of the work, that it had long been my intention to publish my thoughts upon religion, but that I reserved it to later time of life. I have now to inform you why I wrote it and published it at the time I did.
In the first place I saw my life in continual danger. my friends were falling as fast as the guillotine could cut their heads off, and as I every day expected the same fate, I resolved to begin my work. I appeared to my Self to be on my Death bed, for death was on every side of me, and I had no time to lose this accounts for my writing at the time I did, and so nicely did the time and the intention meet, that I had not finished the first part of the work more than six hours before I was arrested an taken to prison. Joel Barlow was with me and knows the fact.
In the Second place the people of france were running headlong into atheism, and I had the work translated into their own language to stop them in that career…I believe in god. I endangered my own life, in the first plase by opposing in the convention the execution of the king, and labouring to shew the were trying the monarchy, and not the man, and that the crimes imputed to him were the crimes of the monarchial Sistem. And I endangered it a second time by opposing atheism. And yet some of your priests, for I do not believe that all are perverse—cry out, in the war whoop of the monarchial priest-craft what an infidel: what a wicked man is thomas paine: the might as well add for he believed in god and is against shedding blood.
But all the war whoop of the pulpit has some concealed object. Religion is not the cause, but is the stalking horse the put it forward to conceal themselves behind it. it is not a secret that there has been a party composed of the leaders of the federalists. for I Do not include all federalists by their leaders who have been working by various means for several years past to overturn the federal constitution established on the representative sistem and plase government in the new world on the corrupt sistem of the old. to accomplish this a large standing army was necessary and as a pretence for such an army the danger of foreign invation must be bellowed forth from the pulpit, from the press and by their public orators…
I have seen the four letters that passed between you and John Adams, in your first letter you say ‘let divines and philosophers, Statemen and patriots write their endeavours to renovate the age by inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of a Deity and universal philanthropy.’ Why, my dear friend this is my Religion exactly, and is the whole of it, that you may have an idea that the age of Reason (for I believe that you have not read it) inculcates this reverential fear and love of a Deity. I will give you a paragraph from it:
‘Do you want to Contemplate his power? we see it in the immensity of the creation. Do we want to contemplate is wisdom? we see it in the unchangeable order by which the incomprehensible whole is governed. Do we want to contemplate his munificence? we see it in the abundance with which he fills the earth. Do we want to contemplate his mercy? we see it in his not with holding that abundance even from the unthankful.’
As I am fully with you in your first part, that Respecting the Deity, So am I in your second that of universal philanthropy…You my dear, & much Respected friend, are far in the vale of years, I have yet I believe some years in store, for I have a good state of health and a happy mind and I take care of both, by nourishing the first with temperance and the latter with abundance. This, I believe, you will allow the true philosophy of life, you will see by my third letter to the citizens of the united states that I have been exposed to, and preserved through many dangers, but instead of buffeting the Deity with prayers as if I distrusted him or must dictate to him, I reposed myself on his protection; and you, my friend, will find, even in your last moments, more consolation in the silence of resignation than in the murmuring wish of prayer.
In every thing which you say in your second letter to John Adams Respecting our rights as men and citizens in this world I am perfectly with you. on other points we have to answer to our creator and not to each other. the key of heaven is not in keeping of any sect, nor ought the road to it, to be obstructed by any our Relation to each other in this world, is as men, and the man who is a friend to men, and to his Rights, let his rights, let his Religious opinions be what the may, is a good citizen to whom I can give as I ought to do, (and as every other ought) the Right hand of fellowship, and to none with more hearty goodwill my dear friend, than to you.”
Finally, on the reverse of the last page, Paine pens a riddle: “What word is that which all man Loves, And by taking away the first letter most men loves, And by taking away the two first letters shews the character of a man that loves Neither?,” with “GLASS” drawn in large block letters below. In very good condition, with small areas of paper loss to edges affecting a few words of text, and scattered foxing and moderate staining not affecting readability; the signature itself is clear and completely unaffected.
In the aftermath of the Revolution, Thomas Paine moved to Europe where he continued to fight for the ideals of liberty. He was elected to the National Convention in France, which in 1793 acted as a jury in the trial of King Louis XVI; Paine’s impassioned defense of the king against the death sentence nearly resulted in the loss of his own life when Robespierre took power. Imprisoned, Paine was able to get his manuscript for The Age of Reason to Joel Barlow, who had it published in 1794. Paine was released after the fall of Robespierre later in the year, having narrowly escaped the guillotine. He returned to America in 1802, where he encountered many newfound ideological enemies—Samuel Adams among them. The present manuscript of Adams’s letter and Paine’s reply was published on the front page of the January 26, 1803, issue of the National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser, with various corrections made to the inconsistent spelling and grammar. Boasting incredible autobiographical content, this is undoubtedly one of the finest Paine manuscripts in private hands today. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.