Tom Paine on freedom


I found this quote from Tom Paine while visiting the Taking Liberties exhibition in London last weekend, from the days when people understood that freedom needed to be fought for:

Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must … undergo the fatigue of supporting it.

The curators had edited out the phrase ‘like men’ which was in the middle where the ellipses are, perhaps because it was easier than having a discussion about gender and historical language.

The original is from a series of articles written by Paine, a prolific pamphleteer, in the months and years following the American declaration of independence, and are an interesting reminder of how fragile the fledgling American state was. This one is from September 1777.

The exhibition, which is free, runs until 1st March next year. It’s especially good on the ferment of the English Revolution in the mid-17th century, which led to the execution of Charles I and the creation of the Commonwealth. The Leveller movement produced The Agreement of the People and the Putney Debates,  radical beacons which were far ahead of their time, and are still astonishing to read now.

There’s also an interactive application, for those who’re unable to get there in person.  It’s worth visiting – as is the curator’s blog.

[Update 24.01.09: A good post at Our Kingdom on Obama’s use of Paine’s writing in his speeches – including the inauguration speech.]

The picture at the top of the post is from Peter Golden’s “Random Jottings” site, interesting thoughts on (mostly American) politics. “Three weeks ago, at our meeting, a board member asked: “What does leafleting have to do with democracy?”What indeed?


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