New Political Writings of Thomas Paine
By Richard Gimbel, Yale University Library Gazette, Vol. 30, No. 3, January, 1956
Thomas Paine frequently stated that he was not a member of any political party, but it is apparent from the following letters and the anonymous articles alluded to, that he took a more active part than has hitherto been known in helping the Republican (Jeffersonian) Party achieve its ends.
After the American Revolution most of the states were quick to drop their English charters and substitute constitutions patterned after the constitution adopted by the United States. A few states held on to their old charters and Connecticut was one of them.
This state was still governed by the charter granted by Charles II, which provided for a house of representatives and an upper house consisting of twelve members, variously called the Governor’s assistants, council, or senate. Under this charter, a small but exceedingly powerful group of men in the upper house had gained and were resolved to keep absolute control of the state. Seven of them a majority-had banded together, holding the whip hand. They were all lawyers: David Daggett, Nathaniel Smith, Chauncey Goodrich, Jonathan Brace, John Allen, William Edmond, and Elizur Goodrich. No legislation could be passed without their consent; they acted as a supreme court; they appointed the judiciary; by a special law, they were even allowed to plead cases before the court in which they sat; and they secured their re-election by equally questionable methods. They were in close contact with the ten Congregational ministers who controlled the only college in the state, Yale College (the Governor, the Lieutenant Governor, and the six senior senators were by law ex-officio Fellows of the Yale Corporation). This combined political machine, known to be the most powerful in the United States, was ardently Federalist (party of Washington and Adams). It was opposed by the Republican (Jeffersonian) Party, the members of which referred to the Federalist combination of church and state as “Moses and Aaron.”
Six members of the Yale Class of 1778 enter our story. Two were Federalists: Uriah Tracy, United States Senator from Connecticut, and Noah Webster, of dictionary fame. Oliver Wolcott, who as Secretary of the Treasury under both Washington and Adams was Federalist, later became an anti-Federalist and was elected Governor of Connecticut. Three were Republicans: Joel Barlow, with whom Thomas Paine was closely associated when they were together in Paris; Alexander Wolcott, who was strongly anti-Federalist; and Abraham Bishop, a New Haven lawyer and eldest son of Samuel Bishop, Mayor of New Haven.
Young Bishop, elected to the Yale chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1780, was well known as a speaker. Invited in 1800 to deliver the annual Phi Beta Kappa oration at the public exhibition on the day preceding the Yale Commencement, he prepared instead of the usual type of learned subject, a virulent political address in favor of Jefferson, who was then running for President of the United States. An advance printed copy of the intended address, entitled Connecticut Republicanism. An Oration on the Extent and Power of Political Delusion, so alarmed Phi Beta Kappa that the society immediately by public advertisement canceled the scheduled oration. Bishop, not to be denied speaking, announced, also by public advertisement, that he would deliver his oration at the original time at White Haven Meeting House, another hall just across the “Green.” He later claimed that the audience numbered 1,500. As a result of this affair, Bishop has the probably unique distinction of having resigned or been expelled (the records are not exactly clear) from Phi Beta Kappa.(1) His classmate, Noah Webster, was quick to reply in print to Bishop’s oration with a violent anonymous review, A Rod for the Fool’s Back (1800).
Despite his inability to capture the strongly Federalist state of Connecticut, Jefferson was elected President. He rewarded Abraham Bishop by appointing his seventy-eight-year-old father, Samuel Bishop, to the lucrative post of Collector of the Port of New Haven. This action caused the strongly worded “New-Haven Remonstrance” to be sent to President Jefferson, protesting the appointment and signed by the owners of more than seven-eighths of the navigation of the Port of New Haven. President Jefferson’s reply, dated July 12, 1801, re-affirmed his appointment, giving reasons so sagacious that these documents have been ever since a classic in studies of the civil service and the question of patronage. They are both found in the appendix to An Examination of the President’s Reply to the NewHaven Remonstrance, a sixty-nine-page pamphlet printed in New York by George F. Hopkins in 1801. When Samuel Bishop died in 1803, his son Abraham succeeded him in the post, and held it until 1829.
The platform and nominations of the Republican Party were contained in a Republican Address to the Free Men of Connecticut, signed by order of the General Committee, Levi Ives, Junior Clerk, dated August 30, 1803. Alexander Wolcott is believed to have been the chief author. It was also printed in the Hartford American Mercury, the leading Republican paper of Connecticut, on September 15, 1803, and charged that the Federalists were in fact “Royalists” who intended to overthrow the constitution of the United States and establish some form of monarchy or perpetual presidency. On the Federalist side had appeared many articles, among them Uriah Tracy’s address To the Freemen of Connecticut, dated Litchfield, September 6, 1803, appearing both in the newspapers and as a sixteenpage pamphlet.
It is easy to understand how Thomas Paine would be interested in the goings-on in Connecticut. The attempt to turn out the Federalists and secure for the state a Republican constitution in place of an English charter was toward an end for which Paine had always fought - government under a constitution. He owned a large farm in New Rochelle, near the Connecticut border, which had been given to him by the state of New York as a reward for his patriotic services during the American Revolution. In 1803 he was spending a great deal of the summer in Stonington, Connecticut, at the home of a friend, probably the Reverend Mr. Foster, Universalist minister.(2)
In the library of Princeton University there are two letters addressed by Paine to Elisha Babcock, the publisher of the American Mercury, and through the courtesy of Alexander P. Clark, Curator of Manuscripts, I am permitted to publish them in full, I believe for the first time. The first letter reads:
Stonington, Connecticut Oct 10 1803 Dear Sir During my absence from Bordenton(3) your friendly letter arrived there which I received on my return and as I then intended coming on to the eastward I had hopes of making my thanks to you personally, but the fever at N. York(4) obliged me to go by long Island which threw me out of my intended course. I left Joel Barlow in good health at Paris. Mrs. B was but indifferent. He is always talking of coming home, but he waits to sell a house which he bought about four years ago and for which he expects 8 or 9 thousand pounds sterling - was lucky in passing the Atlantic between the storms of last War and this, but America is not the same agreeable Country as when I left it. This federal faction has debased its politics and corrupted its Morality.
I have seen Uriah Tracy’s publication and also some other pieces in Green’s paper(5) in answer to the republican Address. They all deny the charge of plotting to overthrow the Constitution and establishing a Monarchy, and I do not sup pose the charge is true against them as a whole party, for though one in a thou sand might be advanced by such a System, hundreds of thousands of them must be sunk by it, and become hewers of wood and drawers of water to support the pomposity of the few, and they must be fools indeed not to see this. But the charge is true against their leaders, or at least against some of them, and this is the only way in which the charge has been made. It is true, I believe, against your leading Man in Connecticut, Oliver Elsworth.(6) Star Chester of Groton, a Justice of the Peace and a very respectable Man, told me a few days ago that he was in company with Elsworth and about twelve other persons, about a year ago, and that Elsworth there declared himself to be a Monarchist. Major Smith of New London was with Mr. Chester when he related this declaration of Elsworth. As a fact that can be established is sometimes of more effect than a great deal of argument I put you in the way of satisfying yourself with respect to Mr. Elsworth’s anti-republican principles. Perhaps you[r] correspondent David(7) can find a stone in his scrip for this Philistine.
I shall stay at this place about three weeks and as your paper is preferable to any in this part of the Country I will be obliged to you to favour me with it. Direct to me at Stonington point, Connecticut. Present my respects to your correspondent David. Yours in friendship THOMAS PAINE
Babcock undoubtedly complied with Paine’s request to send him the American Mercury, but his correspondent “David” did not publish the charge against Oliver Ellsworth for favoring a monarchy. As late as July 2, 1805, in a letter to Babcock which has already been published in Foner’s edition of The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine (New York, 1945), Vol. II, pp. 1467-68, Paine complains that Babcock has made no use of this information; so he must have scanned the paper regularly. The second letter, now in the Andre de Coppet collection at Princeton University, was addressed by Paine to Babcock in August, 1804:
New Rochelle, New York State August 27, 1804 I have received three of your Papers. The first wherein you announce for publication of the piece I sent to Mr. Bishop signed A friend to Constitutional Order. The next, in which the piece is published; and the last (Augst. 23) The papers of the two preceding weeks have not arrived. In Duane’s paper (the Aurora of the 8th Inst•) is a piece of mine signed Common Sense, on Governeur Morris’s foolish Oration on Hamilton(8) I desired Duane to send you one in case he was not in the habit of doing so; and in Duane’s Country paper of the 23 and 24, and in his daily paper of one of those dates, is a piece of mine signed Camus and entitled Nonsense from New York. It is a burlesque on a piece in Lang’s paper and on Mason’s Oration on Hamilton. Mr. Bishop, in his answer to me (20 July) after receiving the piece says, “I have submitted its contents to our general Committee, who consider it rather as a valuable Chapter of texts, from which we may preach for a long time, than as an essay for publication.” But as it was better to publish it first, and preach about it afterwards, I was glad to find they had changed their mind and sent it to you.
From what I could learn, the republicans of Connecticut were endeavouring to reform their legislature for the purpose of obtaining a constitution. This round-about way, besides the tediousness and uncertainty of it, was fundamentally wrong; because as a Constitution is a law to the legislature, and defines and limits its powers, it cannot, from the Nature of the Case, be the act of the legislature; it must be the act of the people creating a legislature. The right way is always a strait line, and a strait line is always shorter than a crooked one. A law, enacted by a legislature, binds the citizens individually; but a Constitution binds the legislature collectively.
I see by your last paper there is to be “a Meeting of the republicans at New Haven, not to form a Constitution, but to consider the expediency of proposing this measure to the people.” - I much question if the feds had any Idea of being taken upon this ground, and therefore as long as they could keep a Majority, ac cording to the present state of election rights, they felt themselves secure; but this cuts them up at the root. I know not what is the qualification to entitle a Man to vote according to your rechartered Charter, but be it what it may it cannot become a rule for electing a convention, because conventions for forming constitutions being of American origin cannot be under the controul of an english Charter. The people when they elect a Convention, and the Convention when elected, can know of no such authority as Charles the Second, nor of any such instrument as the Charter.
I suppose I shall see in your next paper some account of the meeting at New Haven, and if there is any thing you can inform me of by letter I shall be glad to receive it.
The last paragraph in the first page of this letter beginning with the words From what I learn, and ending on this page with the words legislature collectively, you may, if you please, put in the Mercury as, Extract of a letter from a Republican in a Neighbouring State. The paragraph is concise and the Idea clear, and is of that kind that serves to put thought in Motion.(9)
I am now settled on my farm at N. Rochelle where I intend to reside. It is a healthy pleasant situation about ten Miles from the Connecticut line. The southern and eastern posts pass through every day. It is not my intention to publish any pieces or letters on the ensuing presidential election, because I think there will be no occasion for it; but if any Champion of the Feds whether priest or Musqueteer throws the Gauntlet I hold myself in reserve for him.- yours in friendship THOMAS PAINE
The piece signed ‘’A Friend to Constitutional Order,’’ revealed in the above letter to be by Thomas Paine, had been advertised in the American Mercury on July 26, 1804, as follows: “A Friend to Constitutional Order” is received, and shall have a place in our paper of next week. We thank the writer for this Communication, and hope for a continuation of his favors.
The complete article appeared as promised in the American Mercury on August 2, 1804:
For the MERCURY To the people of Connecticut, ON THE SUBJECT OF A CONSTITUTION
IT was not generally known, until Mr. Bishop’s excellent Oration of last May appeared, that the State of Connecticut had not a Constitution. Congress some time in 1775 or the beginning of ’76 recommended to the people of the several provinces (as they were then called) to take up and establish new governments; but the Legislature of Connecticut, disregarding this recommendation of Congress, assumed the power of enacting that the form of government contained in the Charter of Charles the 2d of England, should be the civil constitution of Connecticut.-This was an unwarrantable act of assumption of the legislature of that day. The right of forming a Constitution belongs to the people in their original character, and cannot be exercised by any body of representatives unless they are chosen expressly for the purpose.
The people of Connecticut have now to exercise the right they ought to have exercised before, for it may be doubted, whether in their present condition, not having an authorised Constitution, they have any legal government of their own. The Legislature which enacted that the form of government contained in the Charter of Charles the second should be the civil Constitution of the state could not derive the right of so doing from the Charter itself, because the Charter could not give the right of changing the authority from whence it issued and under which that legislature was then sitting. The only source from whence such a right could proceed was the authority of the people, but this the legislature was not possessed of because they were not invested with it, nor elected, as Conventions in other States were, for the express purpose of forming a Constitution. The act therefore which changed the name of Charter into that of Constitution being an unauthorised act, is in itself a nullity.
Neither have the present legislature any right in the matter otherwise than as individual citizens, because the right of forming and establishing Constitutions belongs, as before said, to the people in their original character, and cannot be assumed or exercised by any body of men elected for the ordinary purposes of legislation.
It is evident, from the nature of the case, that the first step towards bringing this business forward must be voluntary, for in all cases where rights are equal, though any one may propose or recommend, none can have authority to command in the first instance.
Let then, in the first place, the people of the several towns elect Town Committees, and let the elections be made by persons subject to military or militia duty or who pay taxes.
Secondly, Let the Committees thus elected be authorised to appoint deputies to meet in conference with deputies from the other towns.
Thirdly, Let the deputies thus met in conference form a plan for the election of a Convention, which shall be authorised to form and propose a Constitution to the people.
Fourthly, When the Constitution is proposed let it be voted for by YEAS and NAYS by all the people of the several towns who were entitled to vote for the Town Committees in the first instance.
It is not difficult to foresee that when the Constitution shall be before the people for their consideration, there will be those who will be proposing alterations or amendments, some will do this from a good motive, and others from no other motive than that of embarrassing and preventing the matter coming to a conclusion, like the Connecticut members in Congress to prevent the repeal of the internal taxes.
As a Constitution should contain within itself the means of amending any part thereof as time and experience shall shew necessary, and as it is to be presumed the Convention will discuss every article they adopt, more effectually than men thinking individually can do, it will be best to vote its adoption or rejection simply by YEAS and NAYS, unincumbered by conditions. There has been so much experience on the principles and manner of forming Constitutions since the revolution began, that no material error can now take place. This was not the case at first. The legislature that assumed the power of re-enacting the Charter knew so little about Constitutions that they arrogated to themselves the right of establishing their illegitimate of spring through all generations. There is no article which provides for the amendment. They dethroned Charles and then put themselves in his place, and to display their sovereignty they uncharted the charter to charter it anew. The whole matter therefore must now begin as it ought to have began at first, on the authority of the people in their original character.
Governor Trumbull, in his speech to the Legislature in May last, informed them of the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the United States, by designating the persons to be voted for as President and Vice-President, and he made this the occasion of speaking against the policy of altering Constitutions on “SPECULATION.” This word was very injudiciously applied to the case; be cause it is not on SPECULATION but on EXPERIENCE had at the last Presidential election that the amendment was proposed. Something, therefore, must have been in Governor Trumbull’s mind, besides the case itself, to have led him so far and so erroneously from the merits of it. He could not but know that Connecticut, though it has a form of government, has not a Constitution, and that the thing patched up in the place of one (and that by those who had not authority for the purpose) has no declaration of rights prefixed to it, nor any article in which it provides for its amendment. It was therefore consistent with the policy of the party to which Governor Trumbull adheres, to keep all considerations on the subject of Constitutions and amendments as distant as possible from the minds of the people. It might occur to that party, that if we (the Feds) agree to amend the Constitution of the Union, it will suggest the idea of looking into our own, and in that case, the firm of MOSES and AARON, and the beast with SEVEN HEADS*, will fall like the dagon of the Philistines.
A Friend to Constitutional Order.
*See the account in Mr. Bishop’s Oration about the seven Lawyers who govern the State.
The piece signed “Comus” and entitled “Nonsense From New York” - also referred to by Paine in his second letter to Babcock appeared in the Philadelphia Aurora on August 23, 1804. It was a burlesque on a piece in Lang’s New York Gazette of July 27, 1804, and on Reverend John Mitchell Mason’s oration on Hamilton. Mason’s text was not printed in the newspapers since it was copy-righted, but it did appear in a forty-page pamphlet, An Oration, Commemorative of the Late Major-General Alexander Hamilton; Pronounced Before the New-York State Society of the Cincinnati, on Tuesday, the 3ist July, 1804, printed by Hopkins and Seymour, New York, 1804. Now revealed to be Paine’s work, the burlesque is here published in full:
FOR THE AURORA. NONSENSE FROM NEW YORK. The following absurd and extravagant publication entitled “Reflections,” is copied from Lang’s N. York Gazette, of July 27. I send it you, accompanied with some remarks.
“The loss of gen. Hamilton (says this writer) cannot be considered by those who knew his extraordinary worth in any other light than as a severe judgment upon the United States. This being the case (it happens not to be the case) it becomes every one seriously to reflect on the cause of the dsipleasure [sic] and the only method for its removal. [Now for it.]
“The primary source, says he, of all the evils appears to be the conduct of the citizens at the last presidential election. From that moment discontent, division and confusion began to take place; and unless a speedy remedy be applied more afflicting scenes may be expected. Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Burr were elected, each having an equal number of votes.-(Burr was not voted for with the idea of his being president.) The public are now dreadfully convinned [i.e., convinced] ( this is another severe judgment ) that the election of Mr. Burr was improper; and they have seen fall by his hand their first citizen and one of the most enlightened and honest statesmen in the world.-Language fails to express (that is, the writer has not wit enough to do it) the extent of his talents, and of the services which he has rendered .
“But the principal error was the election of Mr. Jefferson, and what the nation has the greatest reason to fear is his re-election, The objections to him are well known and need not be repeated. If in opposition to former warnings, and the calamities which have been felt, the electors will vote for him, then ruin will most probably ensue; embittered with consideration that the people have drawn it down upon themselves.
“It is understood that Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Clinton are to be the candidates, at the next election. If there should be no other candidate the preference ought clearly to be given to Mr. Clinton for president, though a more suitable man than either might be found, yet of the two the election of the latter would avert those frowns of Heaven under which the country labours. Every serious and reflecting person should look forward with anxiety to the event.” (The writer signs himself)
INVESTIGATOR. (He means Instigator or lnfestigator.)
Remarks on the foregoing publication. The poor unfortunate feds of New York, appear to be drawn from folly to insanity, and the foregoing piece is a proof of it.-The meaning of the first paragraph, if the writer was capable of having any meaning, is that God, to shew “a severe judgement” upon the United States had Alexander Hamilton shot in a duel! He then goes on. “The primary source says he, of all this appears to be the conduct of the citizens at the last presidential election. From that moment (0 terrible to tell!) discontent, division, and confusion began to take place,” (among the feds he must mean, for the republicans are contented and happy at the event of the last presidential election, and united for the next) and “unless, (says he) a speedy remedy is applied more afflicting scenes may be expected.” That is, all the feds will certainly shoot one another. This will be a severe judgment! upon the re publicans, for they will have-to bury them!!!
But the principal error, (continues our unfortunate author, for he is quite beside himself) was the election of Mr. Jefferson, and what the nation has most to fear, is his re-election, (Yes, it will be the death of the feds!) The objections to Mr. Jefferson, continues he, are well known, and need not be repeated. Yes, we know what the objections are. He turned some of them out of office that were not fit for it, and broke up a gang of blood-suckers that were living by useless offices on the public, of which, most probably, our unhappy author was one. “It is understood, continues he, that Mr. Jefferson and Clinton are to be the candidates at the next election. If there should be no other candidate the preference ought clearly be given to Mr. Clinton for president.” (This quackery monger might have the manners to let the electors make their own choice.) “Though, says he, a more suitable man than either might be found, (he means more suitable to his own purpose) yet, says he, of the two the election of the latter would avert those frowns of Heaven under which the country labours”!!!
Can this whining hypocrite suppose that this sort of cant will have any influence? - To pretend to write, and have nothing to say, is the worst of nonsense, because nonsense ingeniously done, may afford a momentary amusement; but there is something in this hypocritical cant that is tinctured with impious ingratitude. We have been favored with a fine season, with plentiful crops of grass, grain, and fruits, for man and beast; we are blessed with peace abroad and at home; we have acquired Louisiana by negociation, without bloodshed, and without the addition of any new tax; no symptoms of the yellow fever have appeared at New York, nor elsewhere in our country that is publicly known; - we have every cause to be thankful ; yet this murmurer of discontent and in gratitude talks of the frowns of Heaven under which the country labours because the poor feds were defeated at the last presidential election, and because Alexander Hamilton, though a man of some private merit, has died, “as a fool dieth,” 2, Sam. chap. 3, v. 33.
Another writer of Rodomontade (one Mason) has made his appearance in a funeral oration on Hamilton; to let you know it is a catch-penny, the copy right is secured. No man who writes from principle, and wishes that principle to spread through the world, secures a copy right for small works. It is only in large and expensive undertakings, & to prevent other printers committing robbery, that this is prudent to be done. “When Washington was taken (says our wild goose orator!) Hamilton was left-but Hamilton is taken and we have no Washington, we have not such another man to die.” This might be true if we had no better men than our orator. “Bereaved America! (cries he) Thou art languishing beneath the divine displeasure.” The orator has certainly got a crack in the brain; a touch of what they now call in England the King’s Evil, or he would not rave thus.-This short specimen of our orator’s work will serve to shew what this catch penny oration is, of which, to catch every penny, the copy right is secured. It is a mean and despicable trick. He might think himself well off if people would read his wild goose nonsense gratis.
Should no yellow fever afflict New York this summer, and we hear of none at present, the New York clergy, if they do as the[y] did the year before last, will have to return thanks to heaven for its bounty to New York. Our revered orator will then have to unsay all that he now says. We shall then hear of nothing but the smiles of heaven.* Now we are told of its frowns and “divine displeasure.”
There is a marked inconsistency in every thing the feds undertake. Their praise of Hamilton is a satire on themselves-they extol his wisdom, now he is dead, and they despised his advice when he was living; for he strongly opposed putting Burr in nomination for the governorship of the state of New York, and the duel in which he fell, grew out of that circumstance. They are themselves the cause of the loss they deplore, and their manner of deploring it is an additional disgrace. “We have not” (says our orator) “such another man to die.” Then they have nobody left they can put up for President at the next ele[c]tion, This is a good reason for declaring off, and we give the orator credit for the truth of it, for it is the only truth his oration contains. It is however an ill bird that befouls its own nest.
*The summer before last, Philadelphia was afflicted with the fever and New York escaped. The New York clergy advertised a public thanks-giving for this; and the triumphant manner in which it was done, had the appearance of a commercial advertisement, to inform people at a distance and vessels of commerce, that it was safer to trade to N. York than to Philadelphia. This was the light in which it was considered by great numbers of thinking people. Let every man thank God in his own heart, but let not men assume to be mediators with heaven.
The antepenultimate paragraph in Paine’s letter of August 27, 1804, refers to “a Meeting of the republicans at New Haven, not to form a Constitution, but to consider the expediency of proposing this measure to the people.” This meeting was held in New Haven on Wednesday, August 29, 1804, and consisted of the Republican delegates from ninety-seven towns from the state of Connecticut. William Judd was in the chair. A report of the meeting is printed in the American Mercury of September 6, 1804, the same issue which contains Paine’s “Extract” dated August 27, 1804, already mentioned.
The aftermath of this meeting was very serious for those who participated in it. The Republicans on that occasion had formally declared and published “their opinion that the people of this state (Connecticut] are at present without a constitution of civil government.” The powerful Federalist political steam-roller at its late October session was quick to answer the challenge by immediately removing from office five of the justices who had signed the statement. William Judd was one of these. Shortly after receiving notice of his dismissal, he died on November 13, 1804. He had been preparing an address questioning the motives of the general assembly in removing him. This was completed after his death, probably by Abraham Bishop, and published as a separate twenty-four-page pamphlet entitled William Judd’s Address (1804).
Thomas Paine, having doubtlessly been informed of all these events, may very well have published the article “Connecticut Has No Constitution” which appeared first on November 26, 1804, in the National Intelligencer of Washington (D.C.), a strongly Republican paper to which he had often contributed. This article was re printed in Babcock’s American Mercury for December 27, 1804. It sounds a great deal like Paine, particularly in the use of “the times that tried men’s souls” which was not very likely to have been used by any other writer almost thirty years after its first use by Paine in his celebrated pamphlet, The American Crisis (1776). It is published in full below as possibly written by Paine:
National Intelligencer. “CONNECTICUT HAS NO CONSTITUTION.”
For the declaration of this truth, a respectable citizen has lost his office, and, from circumstances, which would not otherwise have existed, his life - There is something so tragical in the effects of this persecution, that, judging of the feelings of others by our own, we anticipate from the people of Connecticut a deep and deliberate attention to events so powerfully calculated to awaken enquiry, and we anticipate also an award, which, while it embalms the memory of the deceased martyr, will consign to merited FAME the names of those who have produced this mournful catastrophe.
Mr. Judd, we are told, was one of those active whigs, who exposed his life in defence of our rights in times which tried men’s souls. The independence, which he thus in unison with others acquired for his country, he dared on a recent occasion to assert for himself For this the lightening of federal vengeance has fallen on his head; and but for this he might have lived to this day the ornament of his country- But a Superintending power has permitted him to be numbered with the dead. Be it so. He has fallen in an honorable cause; and human nature has surely sink [i.e., sunk] to its lowest state, if the exertions of patriotism, which cost him his life, do not arouse the spirit of liberty that slumbers in Connecticut.
Paine’s effort to help Connecticut adopt a constitution was not successful until nine years after his death. Oliver Wolcott, turning against his former friends the Federalists, was elected Governor of the state on a Toleration Party ticket. Presiding in 1818 over a Constitutional Convention, he pushed through a constitution which separated church from state and gave suffrage on personal qualifications, thus spelling victory for religious and personal liberty. Thomas Paine had not fought in vain.
- His name no longer appears on the rolls, and in the earliest register, someone has written “expelled” in the margin opposite his name, although there was no resolution passed to this effect, the only resolution recorded on the subject having been “laid on the table.”
- Paine was giving financial support to Mrs. Nicolas Bonneville and her family, refugees from Napoleonic France. One of her sons, named Thomas Paine Bonneville, in Paine’s honor, was attending school at Mr. Foster’s in Stonington.
- Paine frequently resided in a small house which he had purchased in Bordentown, New Jersey.
- In the summer of 1803 New York City had an epidemic of yellow fever, following a similar epidemic in Philadelphia the previous year.
- Thomas Green’s paper, called the Connecticut Journal, was published at New Haven and was strongly Federalist .
- Oliver Ellsworth was Connecticut’s most important statesman. He was Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, United States Senator, and had been on most of the committees representing his state. He entered Yale in 1762, but was dismissed in the middle of his Sophomore year, and transferred to Princeton where he graduated. He later received an honorary degree from Yale, and became a Fellow of the Yale Corporation.
- “David” was a frequent correspondent of the American Mercury and had made a violent attack on Uriah Tracy’s address in the issue of that paper for September 22, 1803.
- Alexander Hamilton had been killed as a result of a duel with Aaron Burr on July II, 1804, and was succeeded by Oliver Wolcott as Secretary of the Treasury. The many eulogies heaped on Hamilton by Federalists irritated Paine and roused him into writing replies. On August 7, 1804, in William Duane’s newspaper, the Philadelphia Aurora, appeared the piece “Remarks on Gouverneur Morris’s Funeral Oration on General Hamilton” signed “Common Sense.” (It is already published in full in Foner’s The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, Vol. II, pp. 957-62.)
- This request of Paine’s was fulfilled by Babcock in the American Mercury for September 6, I 804, where the paragraph in question-with minor variations in capitalization and spelling appears under the heading, “Extract of a letter from a gentleman, to his friend in this city, dated Aug. 27, 1804.”