"A thousand years hence (for I must indulge a few thoughts), perhaps in less, America may be what Europe now is. The innocence of her character, that won the hearts of all nations in her favor, may sound like a romance and her inimitable virtue as if it had never been. The ruin of that liberty which thousands bled for or struggled to obtain may just furnish materials for a village tale or extort a sigh from rustic sensibility, whilst the fashionable of that day, enveloped in dissipation, shall deride the principle and deny the fact.
we contemplate the fall of empires and the extinction of the nations of
the Ancient World, we see but little to excite our regret than the
mouldering ruins of pompous palaces, magnificent museums, lofty pyramids
and walls and towers of the most costly workmanship; but when the
empire of America shall fall, the subject for contemplative sorrow will
be infinitely greater than crumbling brass and marble can inspire. It
will not then be said, here stood a temple of vast antiquity; here rose a
babel of invisible height; or there a palace of sumptuous extravagance;
but here, Ah, painful thought! the noblest work of human wisdom, the
grandest scene of human glory, the fair cause of Freedom rose and fell."
Thomas Paine, Letter to George Washington (1796)
The entire letter can be found here: http://www.thomas-paine-friends.org/paine-thomas_letter-to-george-washington-1796-01.html