160 Thomas Paine Quotes on Rights and Revolution

Enlighten your mind on injustice and oppression with these Thomas Paine quotes.

Thomas Paine was a writer and activist who wrote Common Sense and The American Crisis. His works are pamphlets that every revolutionary in the ’70s read. 

He was a fearless writer and revolutionary who loved the people—a true militant who fought for freedom and emancipation. Read the words that played a significant role in the American Revolution in our collection below!

Let’s get started.

And don’t forget to check out these Thomas Jefferson quotes and Benjamin Franklin quotes.

Best Thomas Paine Quotes

1. “These are the times that try men’s souls.” 

2. “Character is much easier kept than recovered.”

3. “The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”

4. “But such is the irresistible nature of truth, that all it asks, and all it wants, is the liberty of appearing.” 

5. “I prefer peace, but if trouble must come, let it be in my time that my children may know peace.”

6. “Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person. My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.”

7. “A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not to be trusted by anybody.”

8. “Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another, and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”

9. “The more men have to lose, the less willing are they to venture.”

10. “Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. Yet, we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.” 

11. “Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.” 

12. “The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes.” 

13. “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.” 

14. “The greatest remedy for anger is delay.”

15. “He who dares not offend cannot be honest.”

Wise Thomas Paine Quotes

16. “What we obtain too cheaply, we esteem too lightly. It’s dearness only that gives everything its value.”

17. “You cannot undermine police authority and then complain about rising crime.”

18. “It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, raping, and murder, for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man.”

19. “To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”

20. “Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued, would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things.”

21. “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 he does not believe.”

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

23. “For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others forever, and though himself might deserve some decent degree of honors of his contemporaries, yet, his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them.” 

24. “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.” 

25. “Silence becomes a kind of crime when it operates as a cover or an encouragement to the guilty.”

26. “One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests.”

27. “I believe in the equality of man, and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.”

28. “Reason obeys itself, and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.”

29. “It is pleasant to observe by what regular gradation we surmount, the force of local prejudice as we enlarge our acquaintance with the world.”

30. “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

Progressive Thomas Paine Quotes

31. “To say that any people are not fit for freedom is to make poverty their choice, and to say they had rather be loaded with taxes than not.”

32. “We fight not to enslave, but to set a country free and to make room upon the earth for honest men to live in.”

33. “Men should not petition for rights but take them.”

34. “It is not in numbers, but in unity that our great strength lies. Yet, our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world.”

35. “To take away voting is to reduce a man to slavery.”

36. “The slavery of fear had made men afraid to think.”

37. “The strength and power of despotism consist wholly in the fear of resistance.”

38. “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.”

39. “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.”

40. “It is the duty of every man, as far as his ability extends, to detect and expose delusion and error.”

41. “Eloquence may strike the ear, but the language of poverty strikes the heart. The first may charm like music, but the second alarms like a knell.”

42. “The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth.”

43. “The cause of America is in a great measure, the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have and will arise, which are not local, but universal.”

44. “From the errors of other nations, let us learn wisdom.”

45. “Let them call me a rebel and welcome. I feel no concern from it. But should I suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul?”

Thomas Paine Quotes to Shed Light on Truth and Knowledge

46. “We can only reason from what is. We can reason on actualities, but not on possibilities.”

47. “There are two distinct classes of what are called thoughts: those that we produce in ourselves by reflection and the act of thinking, and those that bolt into the mind of their own accord.”

48. “It is error only, and not truth, that shrinks from inquiry.”

49. “Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a crime.”

50. “The most formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason. I have never used any other, and I trust I never shall.”

51. “We live to improve, or we live in vain.”

52. “Give me liberty, or give me death.”

53. “If I do not believe as you believe, it proves that you do not believe as I believe, and that is all that it proves.”

54. “It is an affront to treat falsehood with complaisance.”

55. “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.”

56. “Men who are sincere in defending their freedom will always feel concern at every circumstance which seems to make against them.”

57. “I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense.”

58. “Wisdom is not the purchase of a day, and it is no wonder that we should err at the first setting off.”

59. “Everything that is right or reasonable pleads for separation. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, ’tis time to part.”

60. “Common sense will tell us that the power which hath endeavored to subdue us, is of all others, the most improper to defend us.”

Thomas Paine Quotes About Government and War

61. “No country can be called free which is governed by an absolute power, and it matters not whether it be an absolute royal power or an absolute legislative power as the consequences will be the same to the people.”

62. “Until an independence is declared, the continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity.”

63. “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.”

64. “When it can be said by any country in the world, my poor are happy, neither ignorance nor distress is to be found among them, my jails are empty of prisoners, my streets of beggars, the aged are not in want, the taxes are not oppressive, the rational world is my friend because I am the friend of happiness. When these things can be said, then may that country boast its constitution and government.”

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

66. “This sacrifice of common sense is the certain badge which distinguishes slavery from freedom, for when men yield up the privilege of thinking, the last shadow of liberty quits the horizon.”

67. “I know not whether taxes are raised to fight wars, or wars are fought in order to raise taxes.”

68. “That there are men in all countries who get their living by war, and by keeping up the quarrels of nations is as shocking as it is true.”

69. “Society is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness. The former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse. The other creates distinctions. The first a patron, the last a punisher.”

70. “Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence. The palaces of kings are built on the ruins of the bowers of paradise.”

71. “A constitution defines and limits the powers of the government it creates. It, therefore, follows, as a natural and also a logical result, that the governmental exercise of any power not authorized by the constitution is an assumed power, and therefore illegal.”

72. “To establish any mode to abolish war, however advantageous it might be to nations, would be to take from such government the most lucrative of its branches.”

73. “When all other rights are taken away, the right of rebellion is made perfect.”

74. “A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government, and government without a constitution is power without a right. All power exercised over a nation must have some beginning. It must be either delegated or assumed. There are no other sources. All delegated power is trust, and all assumed power is usurpation. Time does not alter the nature and quality of either.”

75. “In a general view, there are few conquests that repay the charge of making them, and mankind is pretty well convinced that it can never be worth their while to go to war for profit’s sake. If they are made, war upon their country invaded, or their existence at stake, it is their duty to defend and preserve themselves, but in every other light, and from every other cause is war inglorious and detestable.”

Thomas Paine Quotes That Will Open Your Eyes to Religion

76. “Of all the tyrannies that affect mankind, tyranny in religion is the worst.”

77. “Mingling religion with politics may be disavowed and reprobated by every inhabitant of America.”

78. “The Vatican is a dagger in the heart of Italy.”

79. “That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve and be concerned in the savage practice is surprising.”

80. “To believe that God created a plurality of worlds, at least as numerous as what we call stars, renders the Christian faith, at once, little and ridiculous, and scatters it in the mind like feathers in the air.”

81. “I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. 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.”

82. “Every child born in the world must be considered as deriving its existence from God. The world is this new to him as it was to the first that existed, and his natural right in it is of the same kind.”

83. “The Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the sun, in which they put a man called Christ in the place of the sun, and pay him the adoration originally paid to the sun.”

84. “The Christian theory is little else than the idolatry of the ancient mythologists, accommodated to the purposes of power and revenue, and it yet remains to reason and philosophy to abolish the amphibious fraud.”

85. “Any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be true.”

Thomas Paine Quotes on God and Christianity

86. “It is of the utmost danger to society to make religion a party in political disputes.”

87. “All the tales of miracles, with which the Old and New Testament are filled, are fit only for impostors to preach and fools to believe.”

88. “We must be compelled to hold this doctrine to be false, and the old and new law called the Old and New Testament, to be impositions, fables, and forgeries.”

89. “In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture chronology, there were no kings. The consequence of which was there were no wars. It is the pride of kings which throws mankind into confusion.”

90. “Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics. As an engine of power, it serves the purpose of despotism and as a means of wealth, the avarice of priests, but so far as respects the good of man, in general, it leads to nothing here or hereafter.”

91. “It is not a God, just and good, but a devil under the name of God that the Bible describes.”

92. “I believe in one God, and no more, and I hope for happiness beyond this life.”

93. “Is it not a species of blasphemy to call the New Testament revealed religion when we see in it such contradictions and absurdities.”

94. “Persecution is not an original feature in any religion, but it is always the strongly marked feature of all religions established by law.”

95. “Reputation is what men and women think of us. Character is what God and angels know of us.”

Political Thomas Paine Quotes

96. “That government is best which governs least.”

97. “An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot. Neither the Channel nor the Rhine will arrest its progress. It will march on the horizon of the world, and it will conquer.”

98. “Kill the king but spare the man.”

99. “The circumstances of the world are continually changing, and the opinions of men change also, the government is for the living, and not for the dead. It is the living only that has any right in it.”

100. “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”

101. “Small islands, not capable of protecting themselves, are the proper objects for kingdoms to take under their care, but there is something absurd in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island.”

102. “It requires but a very small glance of thought to perceive that although laws made in one generation often continue in force through succeeding generations, yet that they continue to derive their force from the consent of the living. A law not repealed continues in force, not because it cannot be repealed, but because it is not repealed, and the non-repealing passes for consent.”

103. “Every age and generation must be as free to act for itself in all cases as the age and generations which preceded it.”

104. “It is important that we should never lose sight of this distinction. We must not confuse the peoples with their governments.”

105. “There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of monarchy. It first excludes a man from the means of information, yet empowers him to act in cases where the highest judgment is required.”

106. “The more acquisitions the government makes abroad, the more taxes the people have to pay at home.”

107. “To reason with governments, as they have existed for ages, is to argue with brutes. It is only from the nations themselves that reforms can be expected.”

108. “Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent. Selected from the rest of mankind, their minds are early poisoned by importance, and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have, but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.”

109. “Ye that oppose independence now, ye know not what ye do, ye are opening a door to eternal tyranny by keeping vacant the seat of government.”

110. “Man did not enter society to be worse off, or to have fewer rights, but rather to have those rights better secured.”

Thomas Paine Quotes That Will Help You Understand America and Britain’s Connection

111. “The United States of America will sound as pompously in the world or in history as the Kingdom of Great Britain.”

112. “But where, say some, is the King of America? I’ll tell you, friend, he reigns above and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Great Britain. So far as we approve of monarchy, that in America, the law is king.”

113. “Hither has they fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster, and it is so far true of England that the same tyranny which drove the first immigrants from home pursues their descendants still.”

114. “But Britain is the parent country, say some. Then the more shame upon her conduct. Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families.”

115. “Even the distance at which the Almighty hath placed England and America is a strong and natural proof that the authority of the one over the other was never the design of heaven.”

Thomas Paine Quotes to Ponder On 

116. “Our greatest enemies, the ones we must fight most often, are within.”

117. “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands by it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” 

118. “Lay then the ax to the root, and teach governments humanity.”

119. “Though the flame of liberty may sometimes cease to shine, the coal can never expire.”

120. “Suspicion is the companion of mean souls and the bane of all good society.”

121. “Virtues are acquired through endeavor which rests wholly upon yourself. So, to praise others for their virtues can but encourage one’s own efforts.”

122. “Some writers have so confounded society with government as to leave little or no distinction between them. Whereas, they are not only different but have different origins.” 

123. “Titles are but nicknames and every nickname is a title.”

124. “Nothing, they say, is more certain than death, and nothing more uncertain than the time of dying.”

125. “There exists in man a mass of sense lying in a dormant state, and which, unless something excites it to action, will descend with him, in that condition, to the grave.”

126. “Perhaps, the sentiments contained in the following pages are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor. A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.”

127. “Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods, and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

128. “It matters not where you live or what rank of life you hold. The evil or the blessing will reach you all.”

129. “Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe.”

130. “Better fare hard with good men than feast it with bad.”

Deep Thomas Paine Quotes That Will Always Be Relevant 

131. “Could the straggling thoughts of individuals be collected, they would frequently form materials for wise and able men to improve into useful matter.”

132. “That God cannot lie is no advantage to your argument because it is no proof that priests can not or that the Bible does not.”

133. “It was needless, after this, to say that all was vanity and vexation of spirit, for it is impossible to derive happiness from the company of those whom we deprive of happiness.”

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

135. “Every religion is good that teaches man to be good, and I know of none that instructs him to be bad.”

136. “And when a man seriously reflects on the idolatrous homage which is paid to the persons of kings, he need not wonder that the Almighty, ever jealous of his honor, should disapprove of a form of government which so impiously invades the prerogative of heaven.”

137. “Customs will often outlive the remembrance of their origin.”

138. “There is no greater tyranny than that of the dead over the living.”

139. “We have every opportunity and every encouragement before us to form the noblest, purest constitution on the face of the earth.”

140. “Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.”

141. “Whether we sleep or wake, the vast machinery of the universe still goes on.”

142. “Securing freedom and property to all men, and above all things, the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience. With such other matter as is necessary for a charter to contain.”

143. “And as a man, who is attached to a prostitute, is unfitted to choose or judge of a wife, so any prepossession in favor of a rotten constitution of government will disable us from discerning a good one.”

144. “It will be proper to take a review of the several sources from which governments have arisen and on which they have been founded.”

145. “Arms discourage, and keep the invader and plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. Horrid mischief would ensue were the law-abiding deprived of the use of them.”

Thomas Paine Quotes That Reflect His Beliefs

146. “I have never made it a consideration whether the subject was popular or unpopular, but whether it was right or wrong. For that which is right will become popular, and that which is wrong, though by mistake it may obtain the cry or fashion of the day, will soon lose the power of delusion and sink into disesteem.”

147. “One of the evils of paper money is that it turns the whole country into stock jobbers. The precariousness of its value and the uncertainty of its fate continually operate, night and day, to produce this destructive effect. Having no real value in itself, it depends for support upon accident, caprice, and party, and as it is the interest of some to depreciate and of others to raise its value, there is a continual invention going on that destroys the morals of the country.”

148. “One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings is that nature disapproves it. Otherwise, she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion.”

149. “The essential, psychological requirement of a free society is the willingness on the part of the individual to accept responsibility for his life.”

150. “When the government fears the people, it is liberty. When the people fear the government, it is tyranny.”

151. “As property, honestly obtained, is best secured by an equality of rights, so ill-gotten property depends for protection on a monopoly of rights. He who has robbed another of his property will next endeavor to disarm him of his rights to secure that property. For when the robber becomes the legislator, he believes himself secure.”

152. “Every proprietor owes to the community, a ground-rent for the land which he holds.”

153. “In the first part of ‘Rights of Man,’ I have endeavored to show that there does not exist a right to establish hereditary government because hereditary government always means a government yet to come, and the case always is, that the people who are to live afterward, have always the same right to choose a government for themselves as the people had who have lived before them.”

154. “There are a set of men who go about making purchases upon credit, and buying estates they have not wherewithal to pay for, and having done this, their next step is to fill the newspapers with paragraphs of the scarcity of money and the necessity of a paper emission, then to have a legal tender under the pretense of supporting its credit, and when out, to depreciate it as fast as they can, get a deal of it for a little price, and cheat their creditors, and this is the concise history of paper money schemes.”

155. “If anything had or could have a value equal to gold and silver, it would require no tender law, and if it had not that value it ought not to have such a law, and, therefore, all tender laws are tyrannical, and unjust, and calculated to support fraud and oppression.”

Other Thomas Paine Quotes That Are Full of Meaning

156. “It is not a field of a few acres of ground, but a cause, that we are defending, and whether we defeat the enemy in one battle, or by degrees, the consequences will be the same.”

157. “I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion because he precludes himself the right of changing it.”

158. “In mourning the plumage, he forgot the dying bird.”

159. “The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum.”

160. “A hereditary monarch is as absurd a position as a hereditary doctor or mathematician.”

Did These Thomas Paine Quotes Teach You a Lot About Independence?

Thomas Paine had a passionate and undying revolutionary spirit. Because of this, he was successful in mobilizing thousands of people to start taking up arms. 

His words proved how powerful it is to enlighten and urge the masses to fight. He was also a moral and righteous man who stood for his principles and beliefs. 

We hope that the Father of the American Revolution inspired you to start fighting for your rights. Thomas Paine is an example of how important a writer’s role is in a movement. Never stop believing in yourself and amplify the voices of the people! 

Which Thomas Paine quote is your favorite? Do you have more quotes to add? Let us know your answers in the comment section below.


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Amy Finn

Hi. I'm Amy, the founder of this blog. I love quotes and enjoy sharing the best ones with you.

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