Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Thomas Paine

English-American Politician, Radical Deistic Writer, Influential in French and American Revolutions

"'Tis not in numbers but in unity that our great strength lies."

"'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."

"Character is much easier kept than recovered."

"I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."

"It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry."

"It is necessary to the happiness of man that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what one does not believe. It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. "

"Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice."

"Prejudice, like the spider, makes everywhere its home. It has neither taste nor choice of place, and all that it requires is room. If the one prepares her food by poisoning it to her palate and her use, the other does the same. Prejudice may be denominated the spider of the mind."

"Reputation is what men and women think of us. Character is what God and angels know of us."

"The duty of man is not a wilderness of turnpike gates, through which he is to pass by tickets from on to the other. It is plain and simple, and consists but of two points - his duty to God, which every man must feel; and, with respect to his neighbor, to do as he would be done by."

"What we obtain too cheaply we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only which gives everything its value."

"When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary."

"Where there are no distinctions there can be no superiority; perfect equality affords no temptation."

"A constitution is not a thing in name only, but in fact. It has not an ideal but a real existence, and wherever it cannot be produced in a visible form, there is none. A constitution is a thing antecedent to a government, and a government is only the creature of a constitution. The constitution of a country is not the act of its government, but of a people constituting a government. It is the body of elements to which you refer, and quote article by article, and contains the principles on which the government shall be established - the form in which it shall be organized - the powers it shall have - the mode of elections - the duration of Congress - and, in fine, everything that relates to the complete organization of a civil government, and the principles on which it shall act, and by which it shall be bound. A constitution is to a government, therefore, what the laws made by that government care to a court of judicature. The court of judicature does not make laws, neither can it alter them; it only acts in conformity to the laws made; and the government is in like manner governed by the constitution."

"A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice."

"A world of little cares is continually arising, which busy or affluent life knows nothing of, to open the first door to distress. Hunger is not among the postponable wants; and a day, even a few hours, in such a condition is often the crisis of a life of ruin."

"All the religions known in the world are founded, so far as they relate to man or the unity of man, as being all of one degree. Whether in heaven or in hell, or in whatever state man may be supposed to exist hereafter the good and the bad are the only distinctions."

"Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child, cannot be a true system."

"Compassion, the fairest associate of the heart."

"Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself in all cases as the ages and generations which preceded it. The vanity and presumption of governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all tyrannies."

"Every religion is good that teaches man to be good."

"Every science has for its basis a system of principles as fixed and unalterable as those by which the universe is regulated and governed. Man cannot make principles; he can only discover them."

"He who is the author of a war lets loose the whole contagion of hell and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death."

"Human nature is not of itself vicious."

"It is from our enemies that we often gain excellent maxims, and are frequently surprised into reason by their mistakes."

"Man must go back to nature for information."

"My own mind is my own church."

"Mystery is the antagonist of truth. It is a fog of human invention, that obscures truth, and represents it in distortion."

"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. "

"Tears may soothe the wounds they cannot heal."

"That in which every man is interested, is every man’s duty to support; and any burden which falls equally on all men, and from which every man is to receive an equal benefit, is consistent with the most perfect ideas of liberty."

"The nearer any disease approaches to a crisis, the nearer it is to a cure. Danger and deliverance make their advances together; and it is only in the least push that one or the other takes the lead."

"The world is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion."

"There is something in meanness which excites a species of resentment that never subsides, and something in cruelty which stirs up the heart to the highest agony of human hatred."

"These are the times that try men's souls. The Summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheaply we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its things; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial article as freedom should not be highly rated."

"Time makes more Converts than Reason...the adulterous connection of church and state."

"Titles are but nicknames, and every nickname is a title."

"Virtue is not hereditary."

"War involves in its progress such a train of unforeseen and unsupposed circumstances that no human wisdom can calculate the end. It has but one thing certain, and that is to increase taxes."

"[The Bible] is a history of wickedness that has served to corrupt and brutalize mankind; and, for my part, I sincerely detest it as I detest everything that is cruel."

"Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence."

"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself."

"All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit."

"No man is prejudiced in favor of a thing knowing it to be wrong. He is attached to it on the belief of its being right, and when he sees it is not, the prejudice will be gone."

"Prejudice will fall in a combat of interest."

"Man cannot make principles; he can only discover them."

"Man cannot… make circumstances for his purpose, but he always has it in his power to improve them when they occur."

"The animosity which Nations reciprocally entertain is nothing more than what the policy of their Governments excites to keep up the spirit of the system. Each Government accuses the other of perfidy, intrigue, and ambition, as a means of heating the imagination of their respective Nations, and incensing them to hostilities. Man is not the enemy of Man, but through the medium of a false system of Government."

"The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."

"The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture."