Franklin Schooled Paine In The “Age of Reason”

Since the humanist left tirelessly labors to indoctrinate us with the narrative that we were not founded as a Christian nation, (yes I’ve read the individual quotes by some founders), often worshiping at the alter of Thomas Paine’s “Age of Reason” as a major point of their argument, I thought I would share this alternative view of Paine’s most famous work. A view from those who were actually there.

Leading up to the release of Paine’s signature work he sent a manuscript to Benjamin Franklin for review. As you may recall, from his early essays under the monicker “Silence Dogood,” through his days owning the Philadelphia Gazette and authoring “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” Franklin perfected the skills that would later serve him and the nation well. His literary service to America and liberty itself arguably reached its apex while acting as Jefferson’s trusted editor of the Declaration of Independence. It was no doubt Franklin’s long history of reason (including his great respect for Vattel’s Law of Nations), his mastery of print, and involvement with the DOI, that drew Thomas Paine to seek his input on Paine’s new work.

This is where we will pick up Wallbuilders fully cited article focused on the letter Franklin returned with the manuscript to Paine. Note Franklin’s advice and the later results.


Benjamin Franklin was frequently consulted by Thomas Paine for advice and suggestions regarding his political writings, and Franklin assisted Paine with some of his famous essays. This letter 1 is Franklin’s response to a manuscript Paine sent him that advocated against the concept of a providential God.

[Date uncertain.]


I have read your manuscript with some attention. By the argument it contains against a particular Providence, though you allow a general Providence, you strike at the foundations of all religion. For without the belief of a Providence, that takes cognizance of, guards, and guides, and may favor particular persons, there is no motive to worship a Deity, to fear his displeasure, or to pray for his protection. I will not enter into any discussion of your principles, though you seem to desire it. At present I shall only give you my opinion, that, though your reasonings are subtile and may prevail with some readers, you will not succeed so as to change the general sentiments of mankind on that subject, and the consequence of printing this piece will be, a great deal of odium drawn upon yourself, mischief to you, and no benefit to others. He that spits against the wind, spits in his own face.

But, were you to succeed, do you imagine any good would be done by it? You yourself may find it easy to live a virtuous life, without the assistance afforded by religion; you having a clear perception of the advantages of virtue, and the disadvantages of vice, and possessing a strength of resolution sufficient to enable you to resist common temptations. But think how great a portion of mankind consists of weak and ignorant men and women, and of inexperienced, inconsiderate youth of both sexes, who have need of the motives of religion to restrain them from vice, to support their virtue, and retain them in the practice of it till it becomes habitual, which is the great point for its security. And perhaps you are indebted to her originally, that is, to your religious education, for the habits of virtue upon which you now justly value yourself. You might easily display your excellent talents of reasoning upon a less hazardous subject, and thereby obtain a rank with our most distinguished authors. For among us it is not necessary, as among the Hottentots, that a youth, to be raised into the company of men, should prove his manhood by beating his mother.

I would advise you, therefore, not to attempt unchaining the tiger, but to burn this piece before it is seen by any other person; whereby you will save yourself a great deal of mortification by the enemies it may raise against you, and perhaps a good deal of regret and repentance. If men are so wicked with religion, what would they be if without it. I intend this letter itself as a proof of my friendship, and therefore add no professions to it; but subscribe simply yours,

B. Franklin



Paine later published his Age of Reason, which infuriated many of the Founding Fathers. John Adams wrote, “The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity, let the Blackguard [scoundrel, rogue] Paine say what he will.” 2 Samuel Adams wrote Paine a stiff rebuke, telling him, “[W]hen I heard you had turned your mind to a defence of infidelity, I felt myself much astonished and more grieved that you had attempted a measure so injurious to the feelings and so repugnant to the true interest of so great a part of the citizens of the United States.” 3

Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration, wrote to his friend and signer of the Constitution John Dickinson that Paine’s Age of Reason was “absurd and impious”; 4 Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration, described Paine’s work as “blasphemous writings against the Christian religion”; 5 John Witherspoon said that Paine was “ignorant of human nature as well as an enemy to the Christian faith”; 6 and Elias Boudinot, President of Congress, even published the Age of Revelation—a full-length rebuttal to Paine’s work. 7 Patrick Henry, too, wrote a refutation of Paine’s work which he described as “the puny efforts of Paine.” 8

When William Paterson, signer of the Constitution and a Justice on the U. S. Supreme Court, learned that some Americans seemed to agree with Paine’s work, he thundered, “Infatuated Americans, why renounce your country, your religion, and your God?” 9 Zephaniah Swift, author of America’s first law book, noted, “He has the impudence and effrontery [shameless boldness] to address to the citizens of the United States of America a paltry performance which is intended to shake their faith in the religion of their fathers.” 10 John Jay, an author of the Federalist Papers and the original Chief-Justice of the U. S. Supreme Court, was comforted by the fact that Christianity would prevail despite Paine’s attack,“I have long been of the opinion that the evidence of the truth of Christianity requires only to be carefully examined to produce conviction in candid minds.” 11 In fact, Paine’s views caused such vehement public opposition that he spent his last years in New York as “an outcast” in “social ostracism” and was buried in a farm field because no American cemetery would accept his remains. 12


It would seem Franklin’s “reason” proved superior to Paine’s in at least one regard as his warning of the consequence of insulting America’s commonly held view of God’s providential hand in our affairs would prove prophetic.

I found it interesting that the general populace, those lead by our founders through a recent war of independence, so rejected Paine that his estate could not find a respectable plot to bury him. It brings a new perspective of the chasm between the modern humanist narrative of American history, and the facts carved in history’s stone by those who were actually there.

Of course not everyone was Christian. No one in their right mind would make such a claim. But hey, that must mean they weren’t a Christian nation, right?

See Wallbuilders for cites

11 thoughts on “Franklin Schooled Paine In The “Age of Reason”

  1. Talon's Point September 9, 2014 / 1:31 PM

    Reblogged this on Talon's Point and commented:

    Franklin Schooled Paine In The “Age of Reason” (Revisited)

  2. Bob Stark October 24, 2013 / 9:22 PM

    Sir, I am very interested in your comment concerning Ben Franklin and his rumored womenizing. I have portraying BF for 2 years now and have had many references brought to my attention concerning this activity. Unfortunately I have been unsuccessful in locating any resource that has creditable mentions of this. Can you please direct me to resources that will affirm or deny this activity.

    • Talon's Point October 24, 2013 / 10:41 PM

      I’m afraid you have already shown you have looked into the matter in greater detail than I. As best I’ve found is much was rumor that was commonly considered to based in some truth. I suspect much of it was noise considering his age by the time such rumors began as he apparently preferred anonymity in his youth. I’m sorry I couldn’t be of greater help. It’s a question worthy of research.

    • Talon's Point April 11, 2012 / 8:39 AM

      I have checked the safety of your link and updated it. I am reviewing it now. At minimum it is certainly well done work sir and I look forward to watching the entire series today. I’ll consider doing another post with the series on it.

  3. PARTNERING WITH EAGLES April 10, 2012 / 9:53 AM

    Another blogger, (see my blogroll) Citizen Tom, while an unabashed defender of scripture, weirdly has Thomas Paine as his avatar, hence the name of the blog. I wish he and others would not be Paine devotees.

    • Talon's Point April 10, 2012 / 9:58 AM

      I’ve interacted with Citizen Tom. His respect for Paine is tied to Paine’s earlier years. Plus if I’m not mistaken he has a collection of Paine’s works that seem soften some of his more jagged edges.

      I suspect Paine’s disdain was that of some other great minds of the day, more a rejection of the false piety of the Church than of the principles of Christ himself.

      Thx for the visit PWE 🙂

      • PARTNERING WITH EAGLES April 10, 2012 / 10:19 AM

        You’re welcome. I put a comment in Toms blog (
        referring to your post:
        Having read (long ago) your “about” pg, I would like to have you peruse this posting:
        I so much enjoy your defense of our Creator, that if it were possible to persuade you to change your format to “Citizen Ben” with Franklin as the background, I would endeavor to do so.
        Ben might not have been saved, yet he still attempted to dissuade Paine from his subsequent publication of “The Age of Reason”.
        Think you’d like his pg as “Citizen Ben”? =>)

      • Talon's Point April 10, 2012 / 10:41 AM

        Just as the humanist left give only their convenient facts of Paine I suspect the same goes for Franklin. I used to assume the “womanizer” argument true, but now I doubt it. He was known as a flirt during his stay in France but at his age I doubt it was much more than using his popularity there to gain the affection of the ladies who could then influence others (not to excuse flirtation.)

Toss in your "two cents" if you care to. Fair warning, you might get change ;-)

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