Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Review of Thomas Paine -- A Collection of Unknown Writings, ed. Hazel Burgess, London: Palgrave McMillan, 2010.

The full review as originally published in the Journal of Radical History is found on this blog here:


  1. Dear Mr. Burchell,

    As a great admirer of Mr. Paine's and his incredible contribution to the liberation of humankind, I eagerly purchased a copy of Ms. Burgess' book and was rather surprised and disturbed by the outright hostile regard she held her subject in.

    I was truly not expecting the overall tone of what I have read thus far.

    I was saddened by her claim that Mr. Paine did not compose the treatise on African Slavery in America.

    To your best personal knowledge, is there any empirical evidence to substantiate this claim?

    I was also deeply upset by her claim that he was a slave holder. Even in the most slanted and biased pieces on Mr. Paine's legacy, I don't believe that I have ever come across such an assertion.

    I cannot fathom such a guardian of liberty as Mr. Paine owning another human being. I suppose anything is possible, but I had always read that Mr. Paine deeply disapproved of his good friend Mr. Jefferson's keeping of slaves, but tended to keep his own counsel on the matter.

    I was rather saddened more than anything else by the pages I have read so far, because I so deeply admire and respect Mr. Paine but do not want to have intellectual blinders on, as it were, if these claims have some modicum of validity.

    Your thoughts would be deeply appreciated.

    Kindest Regards,

  2. Ryan, I have responded to an earlier post of yours elsewhere, I believe, but let me emphasize that there is no credible evidence to show that Paine ever owned a slave -- exactly zero. On the contrary, the evidence is that he abhorred slavery in all its forms. You're correct that Mrs. Burgess's book betrays an anti-Paine bias. For a possible explanation, see my review of her book hosted on this blog. Ken

  3. I can't seem to find any other response. I only posted here. Thanks for your reply.

  4. Yes, it popped up in the earlier announcement that I made on the review, here:


Keep it courteous and respectful, please.

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