He always emphasized that the needs have to change according to times, needs could not be stagnant and old principles could not apply to new surroundings. Men can only take the old times as guidance wherever applicable, but they definitely cannot replicate old times to suit the new ones. In that context, again he argues:
"The circumstances of the world are continually changing, and the opinions of men change also; and as government is for the living, and not for the dead, it is the living only that has any right in it. That which may be thought right and found convenient in one age may be thought wrong and found inconvenient in another. In such cases, who is to decide, the living or the dead2"
He was the product of his time, a time which was rebelling against conventional political systems in Europe and America. He thought it was the duty of all well-informed to support this fight for freedom. In his letter to his celebrated friend General de la Fayette, he expresses the hope that despotism in Germany would end bringing down misery and taxation both in France and Germany.
"Mankind, as it appears to me, are always ripe enough to understand their true interest, provided it be presented clearly to their understanding, and that in a manner not to create suspicion by anything like self-design, nor offend by assuming too much" Where we would wish to reform we must not reproach3".
Paine always lived in the periphery of society, because it was a changing society, not yet fully changed and he could not mingle with such a society, where most of accepted institutions including marriage his inner self could not accept. This definitely does not mean that he was anti-social. It means he was against most of the accepted institutions that have become...
This essay explores the life and deeds of a great philosopher and a genius product of his time Thomas Paine. Paine had an uncanny sense of timing, bringing out his revolutionary ideas exactly when they are needed and could foresee the future of his ideas clearly.
Exemplary thinkers like Paine, Rousseau, Kant and Locke were the cream of humanity of the times in which they lived. Their thinking was unparalleled and they are relevant even to this day. Humanity has reached present level, shaped and nurtured by such thinkers. They were no doubt plagued by the problems posed by their own times, but they rose above the rest in tackling those problems, simultaneously influencing many generations to come. Henry Collins, in his introduction of Paine, Rights of Man, says: “He said what he thought on all subjects and at all times, without the least regard for the consequences,” and this quality of fearlessness set him apart from his contemporaries. He also said “When the tongue or the pen is let loose in a frenzy of passion, it is the man, and not the subject, that becomes exhausted”.
Paine was not a mere theorizing thinker. He combined his theories with slight cynicism and a great amount of common sense. Though he defied society, he also knew that social acceptance was necessary to run a political institution even in democracy and free world. He always argued that persecution and victor’s law in any form would provide a reaction by creating a precedent and this would again lead to slavery and enmity that has to end up in war once again.