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I have mentioned in the former part of “ The Age of Reason," that it had long been my intention to publish my thoughts upon religion, but that I had originally reserved it to a later period in life, intending it to be the last work I should undertake. The circumstances, however, which existed in France in the latter end of the year 1793, determined me to delay it no longer. The just and humane principles of the revolution, which philosophy had first diffused, had been departed from. The idea, always dangerous to society, as it is derogatory to the Almighty-that priests could forgive sins—though it seemed to exist no longer, had blunted the feelings of humanity, and callously prepared men for the commission of all manner of crimes. The intolerant spirit of church persecutions had transferred itself into politics; the tribupals styled revolutionary supplied the place of an inquisition; and the guillotine and the stake outdid the fire and faggot of the church. I saw many of my most intimate friends destroyed ; others daily carried to prison; and I had reason to believe, and had also intimations given me, that the same danger was approaching myself.
Under these disadvantages, I began the former part of the Age of Reason; I had, besides, neither Bible nor Testament to refer to, though I was writing against both; nor could I procure any : notwithstanding which, I have produced a work that no Bible believer, though writing at his ease, and with a library of church books about him, can refute. Towards the latter end of December of that year, a motion was made and carried, to exclude foreigners from the Convention. There were but two in it, Anacharsis Cloots and myself; and I saw I was particularly pointed at by Bourdon de l'Oise, in his speech on that motion.
Conceiving, after this, that I had but a few days of liberty, I sat down, and brought the work to a close as speedily as possible; and I had not finished it more than six bours, in the state it has since appeared, before a guard came there, about three in the morning, with an order, signed by the two Committees of Public Safety and Surety-General, for putting me in arrestation, as a foreigner, and conveyed me to the prison of the Luxembourg. I
contrived, in my way there, to call on Joel Barlow, and I put the manuscript of the work into his hands, as more safe than in my possession in prison; and not knowing what might be the fate in France either of the writer or the work, I addressed it to the protection of the citizens of the United States.
It is with justice that I say, that the guard who executed this order, and the interpreter of the Committee of General Surety, who accompanied them to examine my papers, treated me not only with civility, but with respect. The keeper of the Luxembourg, Bennoit, a man of a good heart, showed to me every friendship in his power, as did also all his family, while he continued in that station. He was removed from it, put into arrestation, and carried before the tribunal upon a malignant accusation, but acquitted.
After I had been in the Luxembourg about three weeks, the Americans then in Paris went in a body to the Convention, to reclaim me as their countryman and friend, but were answered by the president, Vadier, who was also President of the Committee of Surety-General, and had signed the order for my arrestation, that I was born in England. I beard no more after this, from any person out of the walls of the prison, till the fall of Robespierre, on the 9th of Thermidor-July 27, 1794.
About two months before this event, I was seized with a fever, that in its progress had every symptom of becoming mortal, and from the effects of which I am not recovered. It was then that I remembered with renewed satisfaction, and congratulated myself most sincerely, on having written the former part of “The Age of Reason.” I had then but little expectation of surviving, and those about me had less. I know therefore by experience the conscientious trial of my own principles.
I was then with three chamber comrades, Joseph Vanhuele of Bruges, Charles Bastini, and Michael Robyns of Louvain. · The unceasing and anxious attention of these three friends to me, by night and by day, I remember with gratitude and mention with pleasure. It happened that a physician (Dr. Graham,) and a surgeon (Mr. Bond,) part of the suit of General O'Hara, were then in the Luxembourg : I ask not myself whether it be convenient to them, as men under the English government, that I express to them my thanks, but I should reproach myself if I did not; and also to the physician of the Luxembourg, Dr. Markoski.
I have some reason to believe, because I cannot discover any other cause, that this illness preserved me in existence.
Among the papers of Robespierre that were examined and reported upon to the Convention by a Committee of Deputies, is a note in the handwriting of Robespierre, in the following words :
“Demander que Thomas Paine soit Demand that Thomas Paine be dedecreté d'accusation, pour l'interêt de creed of accusation, for the interes: l'Amerique autan que de la France,” of America as well as of France,