Sunday, January 17, 2010

Thomas Paine named the United States?? or coined the phrase??

The claim is frequently made that Thomas Paine
"named" the United States in his pamphlet Crisis 2, entitled

To Lord Howe
January 13, 1777

An alert correspondent to my list and blog -- a gentleman named
Ron Matthews -- noted recently
that the claim seems to be inflated and/or erroneous, easily
disproved by reference to the title of the Declaration of Independence.

The factoid (erroneous or not) seems to trace back to John Remsburg's
THOMAS PAINE - APOSTLE OF LIBERTY, p. 195 (available free online at google
books) and has been carried forward by the now nearly defunct
Thomas Paine National Historical Association and others.

Two questions -- is anyone aware of an earlier appearance of
the claim? Any insights on this? The fact that the colonies were still
states at the time of the Declaration is certainly true, but by the same
token, they were also when Paine wrote his second Crisis. Paine made
reference to a single nation in his Crisis, where the Declaration was
written to represent thirteen individual states? Does this matter? Is
it a mere quibble? Does an inflated Paine claim need to be dismissed?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thomas Paine on compassion

Thomas Paine on compassion

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Correct publication date for COMMON SENSE by Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine's COMMON SENSE was not, as popularly held, published on the 10th of January 1776. Moncure Conway, one of Paine's best and most influential biographers, gave the date as 10 January and most biographical treatments have simply repeated that date. Paine antiquarian scholar Richard Gimbel and others corrected this error many years ago, but old habits die hard.  The best evidence comes from the announcement for its publication in the PENNSYLVANIA EVENING POST 9 January 1776:

"THIS day was published, and is now selling by
Robert Bell, in Third-street (price two shillings) COMMON SENSE
addressed to the INHABITANTS of AMERICA, on the following interesting
I. The origin and design of government in general, with concise Remarks
on the English Constitution.
II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession.
III. Thoughts on the present state of American affairs.
IV. Of the present ability of America, with some miscellaneous reflections.
Man knows no master save creating Heaven,
Or those whom choice and common good ordain.

Perhaps the best work on the publication history of Paine's Common Sense is found in

Gimbel, Richard
Check List of Common Sense With an Account of its Publication
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956

Anniversary of COMMON SENSE

Truth is that the more accurate date is for yesterday, 9 January -- 234 years ago, Thomas Paine published his great work, the work he wished to be most remembered for, Common Sense.

Top Muslim Clerics condemn "terrorism."

 As near as I can tell, not a single N. American news agency carried this story other than the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting System). In my view, this announcement confirms Paine's view that, while he supported no institutional religion of any kind, that the vast majority of people want to do right by their neighbors.