Letters to the Citizens of the United States
This morning I read carefully and joyously through the first two letters, the joy a result of the encounter with an unapologetically free mind. Paine wrote to remind the citizens of the new United States of the principles behind their revolution 26 years earlier, and to call out the faction that he saw as turning back those principles in the name of "federalism."
One of Paine's observations gave me a small modicum of hope:
There is in America, more than in any other country, a large body of people who attend quietly to their farms, or follow their several occupations; who pay no regard to the clamours of anonymous scribblers, who think for themselves, and judge of government, not by the fury of newspaper writers, but by the prudent frugality of its measures, and the encouragement it gives to the improvement and prosperity of the country; and who, acting on their own judgment, never come forward in an election but on some important occasion.Do these people still exist, and are they "a large body"? It's difficult to say, given the results of the last several elections — indeed, given the results of most elections — although much may be concluded by examining how many people don't participate in most elections.
When this body moves, all the little barkings of scribbling and witless curs pass for nothing.
Our days are filled with "little barkings of scribblings and witless curs" who advocate chains for all but their anointed rulers — scribblings, and their electronic equivalent in this modern age. Do those who think for themselves still exist in sufficient numbers to make a difference?
And by "make a difference," I mean nothing more than to make the witless curs and anointed ones irrelevant. Freedom means the ability to say, as the great fictional Independent Malcolm Reynolds once said, "I got no need to beat you; I just want to go my way." Reynolds was a great example of Paine's people "who attend quietly to their farms, or to their several occupations."
Two hundred and seven years have passed since Paine wrote his letters, and the barkings have continued unceasingly. The embers of the flame he started with Common Sense still glow, often just barely.
The halls of government are filled with men and women anxious to extinguish those embers. They have grown fat and sassy on the backs of those willing to allow them to hold the reins of power; a little more Thomas Paine in our intellectual diets may be the cure.