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Thomas Paine on Money and Military

Happy Independence Day!

I was reading Thomas Pain’s Common Sense and came across this paragraph that seemed especially insightful in light of this weeks headlines.

Arguing that the time was right for the colonies to declare independence, Paine writes thusly, “The infant state of the colonies, as it is called, so far from being against, is an argument in favor of the independence. We are sufficiently numerous, and were we more so we might be less united.”

What is most poignant to today is his view of what happens to countries as they grow.

It is a matter worthy of observation, that the more a country is peopled, the smaller their armies are. In military numbers, the ancients far exceeded the moderns: and the reason is evident, for trade being the consequence of population, men become too much absorbed thereby to attend to any thing else. Commerce diminishes the spirit both of patriotism and military defense. And history sufficiently informs us, that the bravest achievements were always accomplished in the non-age of a nation. With the increase of commerce England hath lost its spirit. The city of London, notwithstanding its numbers, submits to continued insults with the patience of a coward. The more men have to lose, the less willing they are to venture. The rich are in general slaves to fear, and submit to courtly power with the trembling duplicity of a spaniel.

Paine, Thomas. Common Sense. P. 50-51