Paine in the Republic of the Year III (September 1795–November 1799)
This chapter looks into one of the most perplexing moments of Paine’s life as a republican activist. After criticizing the Constitution of the Year III as a betrayal of the French Revolution, he then rallied behind the Directorial regime. The chapter shows how the criterion of constitutional stability seemed to prevail in Paine’s writings over the question of participation during those years. He perceived them as a context favourable to a return of royalism in France, which he wished to prevent at all costs, even if it meant adopting the language of republicans who considered private ownership as the basis of the social contract. In this critical situation, Paine endorsed the domestic policy of the Directoire and in particular the 18 Fructidor coup. He by then already supported the Directoire’s foreign policy, in particular its hostility to Great Britain through writings intended to undermine the credit of his native country and through advice on how to invade it. As an American citizen who had disowned his Englishness and who had been made a French citizen, Paine found himself at the centre of a very complex diplomatic game as the Quasi-War between France and the United States was verging on a military conflict. That was when Paine tackled the question of neutrality on the seas as a way out of this dead end.