I became interested in Thomas Paine yesterday. He was an interesting journalist. He wrote Common Sense.
In the United States, Paine wrote “Common Sense” and “The American Crisis,” rallying citizens to support independence, and then literally rallying the troops for battle. When Paine went back to England to promote his own design for a bridge, history had a bigger design for him. He had become acquainted with Edmund Burke, who argued in the British Parliament that lenience would preserve the loyalty of the colonists, and who finally added his qualified support to the American Revolution. In a famous speech Burke gave in the House of Commons on March 22, 1775, he said, “In this character of the Americans a love of freedom is the predominating feature. … This fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English colonies, probably, than in any other people of the earth.”
He wrote of the opportunity to create a new world. He wrote against slavery, against the idea of rule by monarchy and for the consideration of women. The link from his name above is an easy read and has fascinating quotes from him.
Paine joined the army in July (1776) and traveled with Washington ’s troops as General Nathanael Greene’s aide-de-camp. In late December, when the American cause was all but dead, Paine authored what would become the most quoted of all his works. Washington ordered it read to his soldiers on Christmas Day before crossing the Delaware for the Battle of Trenton. It provided a shot of inspiration the men, and the country, desperately needed:
These are the times that try men’s souls . . . . Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly.
Paine stayed with the army in various capacities throughout the war, then sailed to England in 1787, intending to return to the United States the following year. But he authored more radical tracts, getting in trouble with the English ministry for Rights of Man and Christians everywhere for Age of Reason, got swept up in the French Revolution, was imprisoned by Robespierre, and didn’t set foot in America again until 1802.
Was he in North Carolina with General Greene during the Race to the Dan? I'm looking. But apparently, he helped stir up the Hornet's Nest. After the war he returned to Europe and tried to stir up issues there. He wound up in jail for some time.
In 1802, at the invitation of Thomas Jefferson, Paine returned to the United States. As the political struggle between the Jeffersonian and the Federalist factions had sharpened, Paine contributed most often to the Jeffersonian press and cause. Jefferson was among the very few people who still honored Paine.
Paine received a modest financial grant for his services to the republic, and the state of New York gave him a small farm in the town of New Rochelle. After he died in 1809 in Greenwich Village, his body was taken to be buried on his farm in New Rochelle. Paine had requested burial in the cemetery of the local Quaker meeting, but the elders had refused.
Madame Bonneville, who had been the wife of one of Paine’s comrades in France and who became Paine’s housekeeper, made his final funeral arrangements. By some accounts, only five or six people attended his burial, including Bonneville and her son, two African men who had walked many miles in gratitude for Paine’s work against slavery, and one man in Quaker garb who refused to disown the free thinker.
Madame Bonneville later gave an account of “an obscure grave on an open and disregarded bit of land,” writing:
“Looking round me, and beholding the small group of spectators, I exclaimed, as the earth tumbled into the grave, ‘Oh! Mr. Paine! My son stands here as testimony of the gratitude of America, and I, for France!’ This was the funeral ceremony of this great politician and philosopher!”
So journalists... I do not know what to say. Your efforts may go unnoticed in your lifetime. But this I know, Freedom of speech is one of the most important issues of a free state. Sometimes, I do not know if we hear everything there is to be said and are thus led around by the nose even today. Still, our experiment in these United States is for the most part the best example of having life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Press on journalists. I'm praying for Iran tonight. There are journalists trying to speak and they are detained. Now, I've read somewhere about the election and how votes are counted, that was pro-government and you do remember the power of an energetic minority to cause "trouble" right? So, I can't say the election was not the will of the people. I really do not know.
But, I do know this. Hundreds of people can not just disappear or be detained or prevented from mourning a family death. That is NOT a free state. This leads me to believe the government there has something to hide. Hopefully, someone will be a Thomas Paine in Iran. They are a lovely people. I knew several Iranian college students when I was at NCSU in the late 1970s. Democracy would work well there. They have an amazing history too. Be brave journalists.
I also want to just say I was surprised the national TV news in the US did not cover the protests all over the world on my birthday to find these missing Iranian citizens. Did nothing happen anywhere? I found a small story on page two of my Sunday paper. So, what is happening???...
Nope, Thomas Paine was in Pennsylvania writing about taxes in 1780 and recovering Charleston, SC and by 1781 was going to Europe to get money from France with Henry Laurens of SC. How to support an army until then? It was up to the volunteers. There was no money.
Well, he worked with Nathanael Greene, our NC rescuer. He was interesting.