Thomas Paine 1737-1809
(Born Thomas Pain) English pamphleteer and essayist.
Thomas Paine, a largely self-educated Englishman who was a corset-maker by trade, has been recognized as a primary force in the American Revolution since its instigation in 1775; he was similarly influential in the French Revolution, sparked in 1789. Several commentators have credited Paine with turning the tide of American opinion from tepid colonial discontent to the revolutionary conviction necessary for independence. Unlike other leading men of the revolution, such as John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, and Thomas Jefferson, Paine enjoyed none of the advantages of wealth, such as social status and extensive formal education. Paine, however, turned his disadvantages into advantages, positioning himself as the spokesman of the American populace—a population he moved profoundly with the publication of the pamphlet Common Sense: Addressed to the Inhabitants of America early in 1776, a work that was in itself revolutionary in its vernacular style and directness. Because of his many writings and efforts on behalf of newly-emerging democratic governments, Paine has become emblematic of the modern struggle for human rights and social justice. He was also considered to be ahead of his time in his critiques of slavery, unfair labor practices, gender inequality, and even cruelty to animals.
Paine was born in the small village of Thetford in England on January 29, 1737. His father was a Quaker and a middle-class tradesman—he made stays for women's corsets. At a time when only upper-class men received an extensive formal education, Paine had only six years of the typical English curriculum—English, Latin, Greek, mathematics—before he had to go to work with his father in the family business. At nineteen (some biographers say sixteen), he joined in England's war effort against France, signing on with the privateer ship The King of Prussia. In 1757, he began supporting himself as a staymaker, living for two years first in London, then Dover, then Sandwich, where he married Mary Lambert in 1759; within a year, she passed away. Paine began his career as a civil servant in 1761, when he became an excise officer—a customs official—in Lincolnshire, a post he held with only one brief interruption until 1774. He married again in 1771, to Elizabeth Ollive of Lewes. It was also during this year that he began to display evidence of his future calling, when he took up the cause of excise officers who felt they received an unfair wage. Paine wrote a pamphlet, The Case of the Officers of Excise (1772), to argue on their behalf and, in 1772-1773, went to London to lobby Parliament, unsuccessfully, for consideration. All he won for his effort, however, was a permanent dismissal from his post in 1774. That same year, he and his wife opted for a separation.
On the verge of bankruptcy, Paine went to London, where he became acquainted with Benjamin Franklin, who convinced him to try his luck in the British colonies in North America. Paine began his American career in Philadelphia, where he became a writer for a monthly periodical called the Pennsylvania Magazine. (Paine added the "e" to his surname after his arrival in America.) Paine had never stopped pursuing his education. He read everything he could find and attended lectures in every city in which he lived. He socialized with men more learned than himself, many of them scholars, and consulted with them informally as tutors. Paine's early success at the Pennsylvania Magazine—he became editor in 1775—was largely due to his style, which was uncommonly accessible to a general readership. Nonetheless, Paine left the journal, it is believed, in the fall of 1775. He was, all the same, already at work on his first significant work, a slim pamphlet called Common Sense. Published in January of 1776, it captured in succinct and persuasive prose otherwise unexpressed revolutionary sentiment. Although military conflict between Great Britain and the colonies had begun in the spring of the previous year, most Americans still sought some form of reconciliation with England. Common Sense, as most commentators since have argued, laid to rest the colonial mindset, replacing it with the fervent desire for national independence. The work sold over 100,000 copies in its first two months, and, published anonymously, was assumed to be the work of men much more well-known and well-educated than Paine, including John Adams and Franklin.
Without employment in 1776, Paine dedicated his body as well as his pen to the revolutionary cause, joining up with the Pennsylvania militia. He continued writing to his very broad, enthusiastic audience, penning sixteen pamphlets under the title The Crisis, or The American Crisis, the first of which appeared at the end of 1776. The publication of these pamphlets continued through to April 1783, when the war ended. Paine left the army at the beginning of 1777, convinced that he was not serving the revolution best in that capacity. Instead he became a commission secretary to several government bodies, including the Continental Congress. He served the Congress until 1779, when political complications forced him out of that position; he was then elected clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly. Despite his successes as a pamphleteer and his many positions, Paine found himself once again penniless at the war's end in 1783: he had given all his profits from his publications to support the war. The states of Pennsylvania and New York and the new nation, via Congress, made him several gifts of cash and land. By the end of the decade Paine had become involved in many new projects, including a passion for bridge design; the latter took him to France in 1787, just as the revolutionary fervor there was mounting. He remained in Paris until July of 1791, serving the French Revolution in many capacities, even though he did not speak the language at all.
Edmund Burke, a prominent English statesman, published his influential criticism of France, Reflections on the Revolution in France, in 1790. Many defenders of France published responses, but the most significant of these replies was Paine's, the first part of which appeared in 1791. Completed in 1792, Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke's Attack on the French Revolution sold millions of copies in France and England. As with Common Sense, this publication made Paine both revered and despised in his homeland. Consequently, Paine's attempt to resettle in London was cut short; he fled in 1792, just ahead of the officers seeking his arrest on charges of high treason. He was convicted in absentia. Taking sanctuary in France, Paine was elected to several positions in the National Assembly and appointed to the committee responsible for framing the new constitution. The tenor of the French Revolution, however, diverged from Paine's values as it moved into a bloodthirsty phase commonly known as the "Terror," during which "enemies of the people"—both members of the former ruling class and less radical revolutionaries—were imprisoned and guillotined. Speaking against the planned execution of Louis XVI, the deposed king, Paine found himself incarcerated by the end of 1793, where he remained until James Monroe, the American ambassador to France, secured his release late in 1794. Restored to his position in the French government soon after, Paine remained in France until 1802. He produced his last significant pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, in 1797.
Paine immigrated to America again in 1802, although his reputation with Americans had been greatly damaged by several of his publications from the previous decade: The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Famous Theology (1794-1795), which critiqued organized religion and struck many readers as blasphemous, and the Letter to George Washington, President of the United States of America, on Affairs Public and Private (1796), which viciously attacked a man revered by Americans. Nonetheless, he remained in the United States until he passed away, largely unnoticed, on June 8, 1809.
Although Paine produced articles and pamphlets almost nonstop after his arrival in colonial America, certain works stand out for their influence both at the time of their publication and over the ensuing centuries. Some, including Common Sense and Rights of Man, have become almost legendary, inspiring activists engaged in causes years after Paine's death; President Abraham Lincoln, for example, read Paine's works as he fought to end slavery in the United States.
Paine's writings share a generally consistent viewpoint and goal; although scholars can chart some changes in Paine's thinking, the framework of his perspective remained stable over the years. His style also remained largely the same, always remarkable for its difference from the dominant prose of the era, which consisted of complex sentences proposing complex arguments, written by highly-educated men for an audience of other highly-educated men. Paine, on the other hand, wrote to the broad mass of people in England and America, most of whom would have only as much as, if not less than, his six years of formal schooling. Consequently, his sentences were much more simple and direct, and his arguments turned on one or two accessible principles and pursued persuasion through clarity and repetition. He avoided the allusions and metaphors typical of prose for the highly literate, and chose instead references that would be available to common laborers and tradespeople. Sharing these standards, his major works differed from one another primarily in their focuses, which were often determined by the moment in which they were written.
Common Sense not only marks the real starting point of Paine's career as a pamphleteer in 1776, it also typifies his work. Rather than proposing any new political philosophies, Common Sense was remarkable for gathering up, in a sharp and powerful statement, the scattered strands of revolutionary thought. Once presented to the American public in this form, these arguments for America's need to cut itself free, both politically and economically, from the monarchy of the British Empire, instigated the drive to independence. A no-holds-barred critique of monarchy, Common Sense argued that Americans owed no loyalty to King George III or any hereditary ruler. Historians also credit Paine with maintaining the revolutionary spirit throughout the war years, from 1776 to 1783, with the many issues of The American Crisis, each of which offered further critiques of England and justifications for the American fight. The first issue began with the now legendary declaration that "These are the times that try men's souls."
With Rights of Man, published in 1791 and 1792 as a reply to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France, Paine's criticisms of hereditary government became their most explicit and demanding. His attacks on the monarchy and the aristocracy, meant to inspire the English populace to their own acts of revolution, also roused the ire of the ruling classes: unlike his previous works, this one was declared treasonous and caused his exile from England. Part I offers an explanation of the purpose of government, which Paine saw as essentially democratic—that is, it could exist legitimately only by the consent of the governed. Part II constituted an undisguised call for English subjects to topple the monarchy and create a constitutional democracy. In The Age of Reason, Paine turned his anti-establishment gaze on religious institutions, arguing that organized religions perpetuate oppression and ignorance. He espoused, instead, a deistic faith based on reason and consistent with a scientific view of nature. Many of the views he expressed shared the basic assumptions of other thinkers of the era; nonetheless, Paine incurred much more anger than did other rationalists, particularly with his direct efforts to refute many of the central tenets of Christianity. Although some critics would consider this his final significant work, other major works include Agrarian Justice, written in 1797, which most clearly articulates Paine's economic views. Written in the context of land reform debates in post-revolutionary France, the pamphlet suggests methods to eliminate the exploitation of laborers and to achieve a more equal distribution of wealth.
By the time Paine passed away, he had fallen far from the pinnacle of his celebrity in revolutionary America. Even in the land where he had contributed the most directly to the success of the nation, he had become forgotten at best and despised at worst. He had contributed to this fall himself in a variety of ways, particularly with the publication of The Age of Reason and the Letter to George Washington, but his loss of public favor was also due to certain detractors. James Cheetham, most prominently, cemented an unpopular image of Paine with a biography published in 1809; that work set Paine's image for at least another century. Despite some isolated efforts to reassess Paine's image in the nineteenth century, and the admiration of some respected readers, including Abraham Lincoln, Paine's reputation held its taint through even the beginning of the twentieth century, when Theodore Roosevelt repeated the old charge that Paine was a "filthy little atheist."
It remained for scholars in the twentieth century to rediscover Paine and his work. Such scholars gradually developed a new view of the significance and complexity of Paine's writings. For these critics, discussions generally turned on several key issues. Early in this century, for example, there was still considerable debate about Paine's originality as a political thinker, many critics seeking to undermine his value by pointing out that the content of his works was largely derivative. More recently, however, it has become commonplace to find Paine's significance in his ability to articulate those ideas in original and fundamentally "democratic" language. Scholars such as Olivia Smith, for example, identify Paine as the progenitor of a written vernacular that addressed and even helped bring into being a mass audience. A changing perception of Paine may also be due simply to the passage of time: political and religious views that once shocked even other revolutionaries now strike many readers as comfortably progressive and self-evident.
The Case of the Officers of Excise (political pamphlet) 1772
Common Sense: Addressed to the Inhabitants of America (political pamphlet) 1776
The American Crisis (political pamphlets) 1776-1783 Rights of Man: Being an Answer to Mr. Burke's Attack on the French Revolution (political treatise) 1791-1792
The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Famous Theology (political treatise) 1794-1795
Letter to George Washington, President of the United States of America, on Affairs Public and Private (political pamphlet) 1796
Agrarian Justice (political pamphlet) 1797
The Writings of Thomas Paine, 4 vols. (anthology, edited by Moncure Daniel Conway) 1894-1896
Six New Letters of Thomas Paine (letters to newspaper editor) 1939
The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, 2 vols.(anthology, edited by Philip S. Foner) 1945
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SOURCE: "Tom Paine's First Appearance in America," in Highlights in the History of the American Press: A Book of Readings, edited by Edwin H. Ford and Edwin Emery, University of Minnesota Press, 1954, pp. 100-11.
[In the second part of his Atlantic Monthly biography of Paine (from November, 1859), excerpted below, Sheldon recounts the revolutionary's role in the French Revolution and his efforts to inspire democratic fervor in England. As in his previous article, Sheldon summarizes the content of Paine's major works and illustrates the dramatic political situations in which he wrote.]
When Tom Paine came to America in 1774, he found the dispute with England the all-absorbing topic. The atmosphere was heavy with the approaching storm. The First Congress was in session in the autumn of that year. On the 17th of September, John Adams felt certain that the other Colonies would support Massachusetts. The Second Congress met in May, 1775. During the winter and spring the quarrel had grown rapidly. Lexington and Concord had become national watchwords; the army was assembled about Boston; Washington was chosen commander-in-chief. Then came Bunker's Hill, the siege of Boston, the attack upon Quebec. There was open war between Great Britain and her Colonies. The Americans had drawn the sword, but were unwilling to raise the flag.
From the beginning of the troubles the...
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SOURCE: "Thomas Paine in England and in France," in The Atlantic Monthly, Vol. IV, No. XXVI, December, 1859, pp. 690-709.
[In the following essay (from December of 1859) Sheldon charts the first part of Paine's career as a pamphleteer. Hailing Paine as a primary force in the American move toward independence, Sheldon wrote against popular opinion of his day, which still tended to dismiss Paine's importance and integrity.]
[While he was in England in the late 1780s, Paine's] soul was engrossed by the contemplation of the wonderful event which was daily developing itself in France. Bankruptcy had brought on the crisis. In August, 1788, the interest was not paid on the national debt, and Brienne [Archbishop of Toulouse] resigned. The States-General met in May of the next year; in June they declared themselves a national assembly, and commenced work upon a constitution under the direction of Sièyes, who well merited the epithet, "indefatigable constitution-grinder," applied to Paine by Cobbett. Not long after, the attempted coup d'état of Louis XVI. failed, the Bastille was demolished, and the political Saturnalia of the French people began.
It is evident, that, in the beginning, Paine did not aspire to be the political Prometheus of England. He rather looked to the Whig party and to Mr. Burke as the leaders in such a movement. As for himself, a veteran reformer from another...
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SOURCE: "Thomas Paine," in Fortnightly Review, Vol. LIV, No. CCCXX, August 1, 1893, pp. 267-81.
[In the following essay, Stephen's review of Paine's major works substantiates his contention that Paine argued in a direct and formulaic fashion that emphasized one or two clear-cut hypotheses.]
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SOURCE: "Thomas Paine's Political Theories," in Political Science Quarterly, Vol. XIV, No. 3, September, 1899, pp. 389-403.
[In the essay that follows, Merriam outlines the basic tenets of Paine's political thought, defining at length his concepts of human nature and government. Merriam contends that Paine viewed government as a necessary evil, tolerable only in a democratic form.]
The political theories of Thomas Paine were struck off in the course of a career that extended over the revolutionary quarter of the eighteenth century and persistently followed the storm centre of the revolutionary movement.1 In January, 1776, he issued his famous pamphlet Common Sense—the strongest plea that was made for American independence; in the same year appeared The Forester's Letters—Paine's side of a controversy with Dr. William Smith, of Philadelphia; from 1776 to 1783 appeared thirteen letters under the heading of The American Crisis, and in 1786 the Dissertations on Government, the Affairs of the Bank and Paper Money.
In the same period Paine had served as aid to General Greene, as secretary of the Congressional Committee for Foreign Affairs and as clerk of the Pennsylvania Assembly. In 1787 he returned to England, where he published in 1791-92 The Rights of Man, as a reply to Burke's reactionary Reflections...
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SOURCE: "Thomas Paine's Theories of Rhetoric," in Transactions of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters, Vol. 28, 1933, pp. 307-39.
[In the following essay, Clark presents Paine as a literary "craftsman" who abided by a set of guidelines for effective writing, including clarity, boldness, wit, and appeal to feeling. Clark also suggests that Paine's view of language originated in his views of religion and nature.]
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SOURCE: "The Economic Philosophy of Thomas Paine," in Political Science Quarterly, Vol. LUI, No. 3, September, 1938, pp. 372-86.
[In the following essay, Dorfman depicts Paine as an advocate of free trade and charts some of his engagements with the development of American economic thought.]
On the eve of the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine, a failure in England, landed in America and threw in his fortunes with the revolting colonists, fighting "for the security of their natural rights and the protection of their own property."1 Then began a career which made him one of the most powerful pamphleteers of the eighteenth century. Not only did he play a prominent rôle in the American Revolution but also in that of France, and many English authorities feared that he might instigate one in his native land. Like any impecunious pamphleteer, he sought wealth, and like any enlightened child of the eighteenth century, he believed that success in business affairs was evidence of God's good will. But his was the luckless fate of the general run of pamphleteers. His life continued to be a precarious one, and his biographer must pass over in silence more than one instance where the necessities of livelihood required that the language of lofty idealism serve special interests.
In Common Sense, Paine justified independence on the ground of natural right, interest and common...
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SOURCE: "Thomas Paine—Democrat," in The American Political Science Review, Vol. XXXVII, No. 2, April, 1943, pp. 244-62.
[In the essay that follows, Penniman parallels the moment in which he writes—during World War II—with the tumultuous time in which Paine wrote. He goes on to summarize the fundamental principles that girded the democracy that Paine ultimately espoused.]
These may be "the times that try men's souls," as President Roosevelt recently told the nation, but they may also be the times when free and courageous men may push forward toward the better society of which Thomas Paine dreamed when he pleaded with the colonists for unity in the cause of freedom. When Paine first wrote those words 165 years ago, America had an opportunity to break away from the tyranny of Europe. But Paine was not content to win a war of independence for America alone. Like many today he talked of world revolution aimed at the tyranny of the few over the many. He, too, argued that men—all men—should have an equal opportunity to shape their own destinies and the destiny of the world in which they found themselves. In an era when men are fighting to preserve and extend a heritage of freedom, it would be well to reëxamine the ideas of Paine, whose writings inspired men of his day in America, in England, and in France to work and to die that they might be free.
The examination will be...
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SOURCE: "Thomas Paine," in Thomas Paine: Representative Selections, with Introduction, Bibliography, and Notes, American Book Company, 1944, pp. xi-cxviii.
[In the following chapter from his book, Clark examines the various religious influences on Paine's thought.
Focusing on the significance of Paine's Quaker heritage, Clark examines it in conjunction with the rationalist, Newtonian concept of nature.]
I. Religious and Ethical Ideas
Broadly speaking, Paine's importance rests on the fact that he was an idealist, a man who envisaged a happier way of life for all men in the future, who thought in the light of first principles such as the equality and sacredness of all souls before God, and who, since he believed that in the past the life of the common people had been miserable, demanded a sharp break with the past, with tradition. During Paine's first years in America, as we shall see, while he was feeling his way along as an apprentice at propaganda, his ideas were not entirely consistent with one another and not without considerable elements of conservativism, as in Common Sense. After he went to France, however, and joined the cause of the ideologues, such as Condorcet, who motivated the French Revolution, he spoke consistently as an antitraditionalist who thought society could be reconstructed in the light of principles and ideals,...
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SOURCE: "The Poetry of Thomas Paine," in The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. LXXIX, No. 1, January, 1955, pp. 81-99.
[Addressing the much-neglected body of Paine's poetical writings, the essay that follows summarizes and assesses some of Paine's most read and more notable poems.]
Even the most fanatic devotees of Thomas Paine have had very little to say concerning his verse. Some of his admirers maintain that his prose has merit enough to secure him a respected place in American literature without the need of poetry. Others say that since he proved his talents in verse to be worthy of his prose, it is regrettable that he failed to encourage his poetic vein. Actually, Paine devoted more attention to poetry than most people realize. In The Age of Reason he discussed the differences between poetry and prose and illustrated the manner in which the books of Isaiah and Jeremiah could be transposed into English couplets.1 More important, he was the author of two poems of unusual merit, as well as a number of bagatelles in verse.
His early literary reputation rested in some measure on the first of these poems, an elegy on General Wolfe, published first in March, 1775, in the Pennsylvania Magazine, which Paine was editing. The second poem, a scathing denunciation of George HI which appeared in the Pennsylvania Packet shortly after the...
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SOURCE: "Literature and Politics I: Tom Paine and the Vulgar Style," in Essays in Criticism, Vol. XII, No. 1, January, 1962, pp. 18-33.
[In the following essay, Boulton seeks to re-evaluate the "vulgarity" of Paine's style in light of its efficacy and purpose; although it may not have suited the aesthetic standards of the era, Boulton argues, it did suit itself to Paine's intended audience and sense of urgency.]
Prose—especially political prose—written for a largely uneducated audience seems to present the literary critic with a difficult problem of evaluation. Writers—such as those examined by John Holloway in The Victorian Sage—who cater for an audience alert to subtleties of allusion, tone, rhythm, imagery and so forth, and who in consequence are able to manipulate a large range of literary techniques, confident of their readers' response—such writers lend themselves readily to conventional literary analysis. But because our critical tools are not normally sharpened on his kind of writing an author like Tom Paine tends to be ignored. He receives a nod from compilers of 'social settings' and 'literary scenes', as if what he had to say and the manner of saying it can safely be disregarded, but no serious critical attention.
It is noticeable that no attempt has been made by literary critics to account for the remarkable impact of one of the best known of political...
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SOURCE: "Paine Replies to Burke: Rights of Man," in Burke, Paine and the Rights of Man: A Difference of Political Opinion, Martinus Nijhoff, 1963, pp. 160-80.
[In the following chapter from his book, Fennessy investigates the connection of Paine 's Rights of Man to Edmund Burke's famous indictment of the French Revolution, Reflections on the Revolution in France. Overall, Fennessy describes Paine as, first, failing to understand Burke's work and, second, making many logical errors in his own.]
Paine plans to write on the revolution
After writing his letter to Burke,1 Paine stayed on in Paris, watching with approval the progress of the revolution. He now planned to take an active part in it himself, by some publication which, he hoped, would have an influence comparable to that of Common Sense in the American revolution. He was in close contact with Lafayette, who seems to have supplied him with materials for an account of the events of 1789. In January 1790 Lafayette wrote to Washington: "Common Sense is writing for you a brochure in which you will see a portion of my adventures. The result will be, I hope, happy for my country and for humanity."2 This brochure was never published, but there can be little doubt that the material for it was incorporated in Rights of Man, Part I, which was, in fact,...
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SOURCE: "The 'Reasonable' Style of Tom Paine," in Queen's Quarterly, Vol. 79, No. 2, Summer, 1972, pp. 231-41.
[In the essay that follows, Hinz argues against the assumption that, because Paine declared his faith in reason alone, his works sought to convince via the laws of reason; Hinz contends quite the converse—that Paine employed many alogical strategies in his efforts to persuade readers.]
"In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense ... " wrote Thomas Paine in the first of the trio of works—Common Sense, The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason—which has established his fame as the great American spokesman for democratic principles in thought, politics, and religion.1 Political historians inform us that actually Paine's importance lay less in his ideas, which were common to the times, than in his role as a popularizer, in his "mastery of the art of popular persuasion".2 What is curious is that in consequently assessing Paine's style literary critics have tended to accept his own explanation of his effectiveness. In his Introduction to Thomas Paine, Harry Hayden Clark, for example, organizes his discussion of Paine's practice by quoting his avowed stylistic principles, and then goes on to conclude: "Such were the literary theories which guided him in his literary practice, which...
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SOURCE: "Rights of Man and Its Aftermath," in The Politics of Language, 1791-1819, Clarendon Press, 1984, pp. 35-67.
[In this chapter from her landmark book The Politics of Language, 1791-1819, Smith uses a close reading of Paine's word choice and grammar in order to establish the significance of his impact on language and political thought.]
John Simple, speaking of his wife's stay-maker to Mr Worthy: 'He is one of the prettiest-spoken men in the world'.1
The publication of Rights of Man demonstrated that a language could be neither vulgar nor refined, neither primitive nor civilized. Such dichotomies of theory did not account for the possibility of an intellectual vernacular speaker, nor did literary values account for the possibility of an intellectual vernacular prose. Even a writer as bold and as experienced as Thomas Paine was somewhat constrained by conventions of language. Describing the reason for the interval between the two parts of his book, he states: 'I wished to know the manner in which a work, written in a style of thinking and expression different to what had been customary in England, would be received before I proceeded further.'2 Other factors besides Paine's talent contributed to the possibility of his writing such a uniquely audacious book. Paine was not denounced as a vulgar author...
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SOURCE: "The Crisis," in Thomas Paine's American Ideology, University of Delaware Press, 1984, pp. 240-53.
[In the essay that follows, Aldridge reviews the series of pamphlets collectively titled the Crisis, which Paine published during the course of the Revolutionary War and which, consequently, reflect the array of issues and ideas that then permeated American thought.]
Much less has been written about Paine's Crisis than his Common Sense, probably because it concerns itself primarily with events and circumstances in the military and diplomatic struggle and devotes relatively little attention to ideology.
Its title, like that of Paine's first publication, had previously been used in England. An anti-administration periodical entitled simply The Crisis flourished in London throughout 1775 and 1776. A total of ninety-one numbers were published, as well as one Crisis Extraordinary, a title which Paine also later adopted.1 The London Crisis vigorously supported the colonies in their struggle for liberty and after July 1776 for independence, and it was widely circulated in the colonies. As a matter of fact, many more separate reprintings of this work throughout America in the one year 1775 are known than of all of Paine's more famous Crisis throughout the eight years of the Revolution. Even the London...
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SOURCE: "Nature and Man's Democratic Calling," in Thomas Paine and the Religion of Nature, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993, pp. 38-56.
[In the following chapter from his book, Fruchtman demonstrates that Paine's rationalist view of nature as product of God and reason at once shaped his belief that democracy was the only political form consistent with human nature and rights.]
Human nature was one dimension of nature in Paine's ministry. Another was the physical world: the landscape and the heavens as God had created them. In the act of creation, God gave his people the trees, the sea, and the sky as well as human freedom and the rights of man. Human beings possessed freedom and rights as naturally as trees produced leaves or the ocean swelled into waves. The idea that human nature was directly joined to freedom and rights provided Paine with still another powerful argument to attack the government of kings, lords, and their supporters. By showing that this form of government conflicted with human nature, hence with God's physical creation, Paine also showed that it was necessarily evil and satanic.
In turning to the natural world, one mode of discourse Paine drew on, consciously or not, was the pastoral, which from the Greek poet Theocritus and the Roman Virgil to Paine's own time focused on the bucolic ideal of peace and serenity. No evidence shows definitively whether Paine used...
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SOURCE: "Paine Reads the Bible," in Paine, Scripture, and Authority: The Age of Reason as Religious and Political Idea, Lehigh University Press, 1994, pp. 70-87.
[Focusing on The Age of Reason, the following chapter from Davidson and Scheick's book analyzes Paine's effort to undermine the authority of the Bible and his effort to create a sense of authority for himself]
Paine intended The Age of Reason to present what he called "the theology that is true" (1:464). His own faith, he professed, contained two articles: "I believe in one God, and no more; . . . and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy" (1:464). For Paine, the Deity is worthy of belief and worship, not as He is described in the Bible, but as He is made known, represented, in the ever-widening knowledge of science.
The Age of Reason, as Paine affirmed, was designed to counter the atheism coming as an effect of the French Revolution and to clarify a belief in God based on "true" religion, free from cant and superstition, and based on the uniform laws of nature and human thought. The "Almighty lecturer" speaks "universally to man" in "all nations" on "all worlds" through the "universal language" of his creation (1:482-83).
Paine conceded (1:485), however, that occasionally the Bible...
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Gimbel, Richard. A Bibliographical Check List of Common Sense with an Account of Its Publication. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956, 124 p.
Comprehensive bibliography of the publication history of Common Sense and subsequent responses.
Lasser, Michael L. "In Response to The Age of Reason, 1794-1799." Bulletin of Bibliography and Magazine Notes 25, No. 2 (January-April 1967): 41-43.
Brief essay and extensive bibliography documenting the contemporary replies to Paine's religious work, The Age of Reason.
Pendleton, Gayle Trusdel. "Towards a Bibliography of the Reflections and Rights of Man Controversy." Bulletin of Research in the Humanities 85, No. 1 (Spring 1982): 65-KB.
Bibliography of the cited works, plus an essay suggesting the issues integral to a full-scale study of the debate between Paine and Burke.
Wilson, Jerome D. "Thomas Paine in America: An Annotated Bibliography 1900-1973." Bulletin of Bibliography and Magazine Notes 31, No. 4 (October/December 1974): 133-56.
Comprehensive list of works that the compiler hopes will "serve as the basis of a complete twentieth-century Paine...
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