Thomas PaineThomas Paine, (1737-1809) US Founding father, pamphleteer, author

Thomas Paine Quote

“The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms like laws, discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside... Horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them...”

Thomas PaineThomas Paine
~ Thomas Paine

I Writings of Thomas Paine at 56, 1984

Ratings and Comments

Mike, Norwalk

A truth of human nature exposed.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Paine here is saying that law and arms are equally good alternatives. And that an equality of arms among society or no arms at all brings a peaceful equilibrium. The problem being with one who may wish to break the equilibrium with greater weapons. This of course leads to an arms race among the people and the people may be become destitute (not of arms) but of bread and butter in an effort just to protect themselves from each other. Maybe law and law enforcement is a cheaper alternative to an arms race among all of the Hatfields and McCoys in our midst. Instead of spending so much time in self defense the people could employ a securtity force (cops) and thus they could go about their productive ways such as farming, mfg, and education. What a novel idea!

J Carlton, Calgary

Since the gun will never be uninvented, and criminals will always have access to them, it is necessary that we all have the option of equal and opposite force. No matter what the soccer mom's think. When the people have (God forbid) been disarmed and the government and its forces are the only bearer's of arms we will then be truly enslaved. We must exercise our natural right to self defense, as the law is most certainly not an alternative to a home invader nor is the law itself an effective option when it is made to disarm the people.

jim k, austin

Hey waffler, here's a newsflash, we have cops NOW. Have you ever written anything that made sense ? Paine was simply stating a fact, namely that you better keep your defences strong since your enemies will always be armed . If you want peace , you better be ready for war. In a perfect world, the lamb may lie down with lion, but as things stand now, the lamb wouldn't sleep too good.

E Archer, NYC

Police are not a substitute for self-defensive power -- the police cannot defend us, they can only help arrest after the fact. Paine is not saying that law and arms are equal alternatives -- he says that arms are needed to check power. He says that arms help discourage the ruffian (whether an elected ruffian or otherwise). And when police become the ruffians, then the people better have not completely disarmed themselves. We are not supposed to HAVE to trust our governing bodies -- we are supposed to CHECK and regulate them, they are not to be given carte blanche or unequivocal trust.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Paine makes several statements here and as always you guys read and remember what suits your worldview. You start with a worldview and look to have it sustained. You support your positions not because they are intrinsically right but only because they are your positions and your ego will not permit you to think or learn anything new. Have you never heard of fraternal groups posting look outs or night watch and then taking turns at doing that. Then later someone does not want to take his turn and several of them hire people to do the watching, the guarding. This is called specialization of labor. Then the group realizes that if they can control the level of arms of the people they are watching their jobs and the safety of all can be further enhanced etcetera. Thus voila! we have society where all is at peace. You are wrong Archer the police are the perfect substitute for self-defense (not all situations but most). Why else has society evolved such a thing. Who the hell wants to sit up all night keeping a look out for his safety. Most people want a good nights sleep. It is shown that in wealthier neighborhoods where there is substantial police presence crime goes down. That is why inner city folks complain that they do not get enough police protection. The same situation exists in Iraq and Afghanistan. More peace keepers more peace.

E Archer, NYC

Waffler, I agree with your last statement. Where we differ is that once we have hired someone else to help guard us, we don't actually give up the right to do the job ourselves. When our hired hands then attempt to monopolize the job they have been given and prevent law-abiding citizens from exercising their rights, then we have a problem. When we join organizations for the collective benefits, we are not obligated to remain in that association forever -- especially if the terms of the agreement are not honored. We have the right to contract -- and all those contracts can be cancelled especially when they have been breached. When 'voluntary' is twisted into 'obligatory' then we have forgotten who we are and the responsibilities we have. We may trust our responsibilities to someone else, but putting complete trust in another should be avoided -- we must always remember that in the end we are responsible for our own safety, and for a myriad of things that would be easier if someone else would simply do them. It would be foolish to act as if "it can't happen here" as it has happened and continues to happen around the world now and throughout history -- better to keep our republican principles as our foundation rather than let them be twisted into the exact opposite of their intent.

Ken, Milford Pa

Prior to WWII. Europe had a wonderful view of the Germans. They were sick of those brutal Brits, those fearsome French, and those war like Austrians and Prussians, not to mention the Spaniards and Dutch with their desire for world domination. Yes if only the Germans would take their rightful position in Europe. Those musical, and educated Germans with all of those Universities, such mechanical geniuses, and everyone knew of their reputation for being so kind to animals. They could bring peace to this inflamed continent. Well in just 10 years, the worlds best hope for peace was, goose stepping, jack booting, and brown shirting their way to attempting to eliminating everyone except the master race- them. Dont think that it can't happen here. In fact the whole world fears us more than anyone else right now, because they see us as a country marching to fascism. If the German people had put an end to it when it started, WWII might have never happened. It was their right and duty as a people to stop it, as it is alot easier to put out a match than to put out a forest fire. But Hitler took away all of the guns, and imprisoned the Intelectuals. Thus the good Germans were powerless, and a mad man took control. If every time the SS officers went to a home of a Jew, Catholic, Slov, Gypsy ect. and they pulled out a gun and killed several goons ( which they had the moral right, and obligation to do) I dear say, Mr Hitlers plan would have hit the skids.

warren, olathe

Common sense as always. Waffler, cops only come after the need for self defence is past.

John, Sartell, MN, USA

This is a shorter version of a duplicate quote. Please consolidate and delete the shorter quote.

Bobble, No. Ferrisburgh, VT

Mr.Paine doth sayeth correctly and needeth not my interpretation of his just words.

E Archer, NYC

The issue is about personal POWER and RESPONSIBILITY. Police and government employees that carry weapons do so because their employers have the right and have hired the police to carry out the consolidated duties of their bosses. What we must always remember is that we are the employers! And we do not have the right to take arms out of our neighbors hands -- the law is to protect that inalienable right, and that is what the police have been hired to do. The clamor for control is the clamor for irresponsibility, to declare oneself a servant of the state, and demand that the state provide for all one's needs. Once these folks and this mentality becomes a majority, the rights of the responsible are voted away by the irresponsible. This trend must change...

Ronw13, Yachats Or

Archer's frustrations are WELL noted BUT ? Concerted movements like ( compassion ) for your neighbor takes president ! KNOW is a big WORD. Think HARD. Please ! City dwelling is never easy at times ! When things lurk in the dark, this brought about by oppression, and the instilling of fear and mistrust ! LINES ARE DRAWN IN THE SAND !!

E Archer, NYC

Power over how I will exercise compassion is to remain in MY hands. I will decide where my attention shall go, whom I shall admire or love. The justification of my enslavement because of another's compassion (and my apparent lack of it) is just another mind-f^%k. GD I am so tired of other people 'warning' me and trying to 'save' me all the while they are being led by the nose. Give me a GD break. Sheesh, the reason we are in such a mess is that we are conditioned to give orders or take them -- leave me alone! The idea of someone living their life by their own accord is feared by just about everyone other than the person who just wants to be responsible for himself. Stop telling me my job. ;-)

Ronw13, Oregon

The natural law of moral responsibility does not deny the inalienable right to keep and bear arms, or private property. Compassion is free choice, some care some do not. Some walk by the beggar, some kick the beggar, some help the beggar get up. I have seen some that have no compassion for man or beast and will let both die in the ditch ! 


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