Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thomas Paine on revelation.

"It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him."
- Thomas Paine, Age of Reason, Part 1

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Thomas Paine, utilitarian.

"For the first and great question, and that which involves every other in it, and from which every other will flow, is happiness."
Thomas Paine, The Forrester's Letters, 1776.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thomas Paine -- an association of vices revisited.

  [posted in honor of my friend Jim Lockhardt]

 "An association of vices will reduce us more than the sword."
Thomas Paine, American Crisis IX, 1780.

Everyone understands, don't they, that the financial industry and "big corporate" are accomplices in the subversion of the Congress ... not to exclude the government more generally, the military and even off-book elements. The corruption of government is a symptom. The infection is undue influence and the means is money or, as it's sometimes called, power. This has been the case, incidentally, since the establishment of the 1789 Constitution, the law-of-the-land in name. Money is king, not law. The corruption of government is a symptom. The infection is undue influence and the means is money or, as it's sometimes called, power (repeated, with apologies, for emphasis). This is not rocket-science. On the one hand, Congress was bribed into deregulating the financial sector while, on the other hand, Chicago and Austrian school economists blew hot air in the pants of anyone naive enough to believe their recycled "show me the money" theories. Short on education and long on petty greed, Americans ignored history and allowed over one  hundred years of hard-earned economic experience to go down the drain. Forty years of so-called free-market deregulation and what did we get? Trillions of dollars in exotic, non-productive financial instruments -- basically bets leveraged in different directions on crummy mortgages in an overheated housing bubble -- took down the economy. The bad mortgages were the initial domino. In terms of dollar amount (that's numbers of dominoes for you Fox News kool-aid drinkers out there), the bad mortgages and underwater homes are DWARFED by the vastly larger amounts of unfunded funny-money ... drrrrrr ... financial instruments that were placed as bets by  both for and against them. Anyone that believes deregulation is the cure under these circumstances needs -- in my ever humble opinion, of COURSE -- an examination of the cranium. The cure begins with publicly funded elections. And from the day the decision was made, it was clear to me that the only legal solution to the Supreme Court's "Citizens United" and other corporate person-hood precedent is a constitutional amendment.The republic was lost a long time ago. We 'Muricans prefer a comfortable lie to the bald truth. It an oligarchy ... an aristocracy of money. If we decide to move towards a freer society and equality under the law -- in my view the synonym for free society is democratic republic -- then we're going to have to struggle for it. We don't have one now and the powers-that-be will go neither willingly nor easily from their preeminent positions.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lincoln on labor and capital.

 Pres. Lincoln on the supremacy of labor -- speech delivered to Joint Session of Congress 150 years ago today:

"It is not needed, nor fitting here [in discussing the Civil War] that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connections, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effect to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above, labor, in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connection with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded thus far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers or what we call slaves. And further, it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer is fixed in that condition for life.

“Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed, nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights."

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thomas Paine on Moses, the Bible, and history.

"My intention is to show that those books are spurious, and that Moses is not the author of them and still further, they were not written in the time of Moses, nor till several hundred years afterward that they are no other than attempted history of the life of Moses, and of the times in which he is said to have lived, and also of the times prioir thereto, written by some very ignorant and stupid pretenders to authorship several hundrerd years after the death of Moses, as men now write histories of things that happened, or are supposed to have happened, sevral hundred or several thousand years ago". 
PAINE, Thomas. The Age of Reason (Part II).
[compliments of Paine scholar and colleague, Salim B.]

Thomas Paine on property.

"All accumulation, therefore, of personal property, beyond what a man's own hands produce, is derived to him by living in society; and he owes on every principle of justice, of gratitude, and of civilization, a part of that accumulation back again to society from whence the whole came."
Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice, Pt. 3.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The poison pill dealt the American Revolution

 Money as Debt video -- a short critique:

Several colleagues and friends have pointed out a video on Google Videos entitled Money as Debt. The link is here:

This video is, in fairness, a good attempt to make sense of the problem in a manner that the average rube can relate to -- namely, an oversimplified cartoon. But it strikes me first as vastly inadequate because all it does is describe a problem without suggesting the solution. And, in fact, the "problem description" itself is inadequate -- oversimplified and at some points inaccurate. They're on the right track, but I personally would not recommend the video. The fundamental issue here is not credit itself ... or usury -- that isn't ever going to go away -- at least I don't believe so. The issue is WHO gets the vig  -- or interest. When the interest from currency creation goes into private hands, then the citizenry and the economy are constantly being bled and greed becomes the driving force --- thereby leading to extreme fractional reserve ratios, exotic credit and investment instruments and a host of ills. Take that away, put the benefit of currency creation back into the hands of the citizenry though development of education, infrastructure, research, medical care, etc. and the problem goes away. Take currency creation out of the hands of private capital, period. I would argue that is what Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution was intended to do ... but Hamilton talked the Congress into outsourcing the job -- from where I stand, that was the poison pill dealt to the American Revolution.

© Kenneth W. Burchell 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Thomas Paine: schoolmasters v priests.

"One good schoolmaster is of more use than a hundred priests."
Thomas Paine, Worship and Churchbells: A letter to Camille Jordan, 1797. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Tom Paine lays out the issues then and now

"... a remarkable series of eight letters To the Citizens of the United States and Particularly to the Leaders of the Federal Faction (1802-5) ... addressed the principal political and social controversies of the (Early Federal) era: pre-emptive war; government as a profitable monopoly; curtailment of constitutional rights in the name of security; the unitary executive; abuse of political and governmental power; the privatization of national currency creation; jingoism and war-whoop mentality; conservative retrenchment in the past versus transformational radicalism; and the place of religion in the public sphere."

Kenneth Burchell, ed. Thomas Paine and America, 1776-1809 (London: Pickering & Chatto, 2009), 1:x.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Thomas Paine -- "What we obtain to cheap ..."

"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: it is
dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to
put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if
so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated."
Thomas Paine, The American Crisis I, December 23, 1776.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sophia Rosenfeld takes a stab at understanding the lack of a Paine statue in Washington, DC

Sophia Rosenfeld takes a stab at understanding the lack of a statue for Thomas Paine in Washington, DC and while she makes some good points about the historic invocation of Paine's memory by the leaders of American democratic reform (sounds as though she may have read Harvey J. Kaye's fine work on Paine), she misses the central issue surrounding Paine's execration by the Federalists of the early 19th c.

Paine wouldn't WANT a statue in DC. In his strafing attack "Letter to George Washington" Paine said he had a right to call himself "the first federalist" because of his early proposal for a union of the colonies, but by the time he returned from France in 1802 he had become a staunch anti-federalist and a hero to those who opposed the Adams/Hamilton version of American greed-based government with private banking in the driver's seat. That's the underlying reason why there's no statue to Paine in Washington, DC. He wouldn't  bow to the "wise" financial geniuses of American government of the greedy, by the greedy and for the greedy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The unfinished American Revolution and a proposal for a new political party

The United States of America needs a new political party born of the unfinished business of the American Revolution -- much like Horace Greeley said of the Republican Party when it was created back in the mid 1850s. The Republican Party was originally created to resolve the issue of slavery versus free labor, free land, free speech and free people. The Whig and Democratic Parties failed to resolve the issue and both shattered over internal divisions. The Republican Party that arose in their stead was originally pro-tariff and anti-slavery. The two great American political issues of the Nineteenth Century were slavery and banking. The slavery issue -- at least chattel slavery -- was solved, but the issue of wage-slavery and banking exploitation was never resolved. In fact, I would argue that the bank monopolies prevailed. Study the debates that surrounded creation of Hamilton's first Bank of the United States. The Congress of the United States farmed out its constitutional currency creating powers to a private banking corporation, setting off a two-hundred year struggle that still threatens to collapse the remains of the republic. Unless we mobilize the citizenry, the international banking/financial interests will extinguish the U. S. before the U. S. can begin to extinguish the banking cartels.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Thomas Paine neither said nor wrote "lead, follow or get out of the way."

Every work and letter of Paine's has been digitally searched for this. It's all here on my computer and I've been reading and pondering Paine for much of my 61 years. Factually, it doesn't even SOUND like Paine who was rarely, if ever,  bullying or brusque in print or in person. Bottom line, he never said nor wrote it and I'll send $20 US to anyone who can come up with a legitimate citation that he did. Paine never said it.

Thomas Paine and salvation through the blood sacrifice of Christ Jesus

"From the time I was capable of conceiving an idea and acting upon it by reflection, I either doubted the truth of the Christian system or thought it to be a strange affair; I scarcely knew which it was, but I well remember, when about seven or eight years of age, hearing a sermon read by a relation of mine, who was a great devotee of the Church [35], upon the subject of what is called redemption by the death of the Son of God.

After the sermon was ended, I went into the garden, and as I was going down the garden steps (for I perfectly recollect the spot) I revolted at the recollection of what I had heard, and thought to myself that it was making God Almighty act like a passionate man who killed His son when He could not revenge Himself in any other way, and, as I was sure a man would be hanged who did such a thing, I could not see for what purpose they preached such sermons.

This was not one of that kind of thoughts that had anything in it of childish levity; it was to me a serious reflection, arising from the idea I had that God was too good to do such an action, and also too almighty to be under any necessity of doing it. I believe in the same manner at this moment; and I moreover believe that any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system." 

Thomas Paine - Age of Reason, Pt. 1

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Thomas Paine, Anthony Benezet and the first American Antislavery Society (Anti-Slavery)

Thomas Paine appeared today in one of the many blog-attacks on the historical accuracy of Michelle Bachman and other Republican figures.

The author of the article in may have fallen, however, for one of the old Thomas Paine chestnuts that still circulate far and wide with little or no historical support. In this case, it's the following quotation:

".... on April 14, 1775, the first anti-slavery society in the American colonies was formed in Philadelphia.
Thomas Paine was a founding member."

This story traces back, insofar as I have been able to ascertain, to Paine biographer Moncure Daniel Conway who presented it as fact without documentation in support his claim or attribution to his own source. Some years ago this writer spent a great deal of research time trying to trace down the facts surrounding the claim ... and came up 100% empty-handed. Extant primary sources -- at least the ones I have seen to date -- fail to mention Paine's name. Certainly the question can be said to remain open, but while it's tempting to believe that Paine would have if he could have, the fact remains that we do not know and there appears to be no good historical basis for the claim.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Thomas Paine: A thing moderately good

"A thing moderately good is not so good as it ought to be. Moderation in temper is always a virtue, but moderation in principle is always a vice."
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man II, 1792.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Thomas Paine: To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason

"To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture." Thomas Paine, The American Crisis V, March 21, 1778, To Sir William Howe. 

Thomas Paine on the moral duty of mankind.

"... the moral duty of man consists of imitating the moral goodness and beneficence of God manifested in the creation towards all his creatures. That seeing, as we daily do, the goodness of God to all men, it is an example calling upon all ment to practice the same towards each other; and consequently that every thing of persecution and revenge between man and man, and every thing of cruelty to animals, is a violation of moral duty." Thomas Paine, Age of Reason, I, 1794.

Monday, June 6, 2011

"... the strength and powers of depotism." Thomas Paine

 " ... the strength and powers of despotism consist wholly in the.
fear of resisting it." Thomas Paine, Rights of Man II, ch. 5.

Effigy hanging in front of the Parliament of Greece

You know ... I wonder if we in the United States of Amerika could even get AWAY with good ole effigy-hanging like our "patriot forefathers" did in olden times?
Details here:
Effigy hanging outside Greek Parliament

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Thomas Paine, Bob Dylan, and the NECLC (National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee).

The National Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (NECLC), founded in 1951 and known for many years simply as the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee (ECLC), annually held a Bill of Rights Dinner which gathered together members and friends of the organization and provided a setting for the presentation of the group's Tom Paine Award, given once yearly since 1958 in recognition of distinguished service in the fight for civil liberty. The recipient of the 1963 award was singer/songwriter Bob Dylan who accepted the award on December 13 at the Dinner in New York, which also featured noted author James Baldwin.

Full story here:

[This fascinating piece of Paine and Dylan lore was spotted on one of the several Facebook pages entitled "Thomas Paine" here

Friday, May 20, 2011

Thomas Paine -- gold, silver, and paper money.

"Gold and silver are the emissions of nature: paper is the emission of
art. The value of gold and silver is ascertained by the quantity which
nature has made in the earth. We cannot make that quantity more or
less than it is, and therefore the value being dependent upon the
quantity, depends not on man. Man has no share in making gold or
silver; all that his labors and ingenuity can accomplish is, to
collect it from the mine, refine it for use and give it an impression,
or stamp it into coin.

Its being stamped into coin adds considerably to its convenience but
nothing to its value. It has then no more value than it had before.
Its value is not in the impression but in itself. Take away the
impression and still the same value remains. Alter it as you will, or
expose it to any misfortune that can happen, still the value is not
diminished. It has a capacity to resist the accidents that destroy
other things. It has, therefore, all the requisite qualities that
money can have, and is a fit material to make money of — and nothing
which has not all those properties can be fit for the purpose of

Paper, considered as a material whereof to make money, has none of the
requisite qualities in it. It is too plentiful, and too easily come
at. It can be had anywhere, and for a trifle.

There are two ways in which I shall consider paper.

The only proper use for paper, in the room of money, is to write
promissory notes and obligations of payment in specie upon. A piece of
paper, thus written and signed, is worth the sum it is given for, if
the person who gives it is able to pay it, because in this case, the
law will oblige him. But if he is worth nothing, the paper note is
worth nothing. The value, therefore, of such a note, is not in the
note itself, for that is but paper and promise, but in the man who is
obliged to redeem it with gold or silver.

Paper, circulating in this manner, and for this purpose, continually
points to the place and person where, and of whom, the money is to be
had, and at last finds its home; and, as it were, unlocks its master's
chest and pays the bearer.

But when an assembly undertakes to issue paper as money, the whole
system of safety and certainty is overturned, and property set afloat.
Paper notes given and taken between individuals as a promise of
payment is one thing, but paper issued by an assembly as money is
another thing. It is like putting an apparition in the place of a man;
it vanishes with looking at it, and nothing remains but the air."

Thomas Paine, Dissertations on government, the affairs of the bank, and paper money (1786).

Thomas Paine -- Society and Government

"GREAT part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government.  It had its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man.  It existed prior to government, and would exist if the formality of government was abolished.  The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all parts of a civilized community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together.  The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation) prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole.  Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their laws; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government.  In fine, society performs for itself almost every thing which is ascribed to government." Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, Part Second, Chapter 1.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The account of Thomas Paine's drunkenness by American portrait painter John Wesley Jarvis.

 In consideration of a recent question:

"Both Fruchtman and Keane mention Jarvis's account of Paine's drinking.
What's your opinion of Jarvis's assertions? Does Kaye get into it?"
The answer to this question goes all the way back to Cheetham's attack-bio of Paine -- yes, the one that he published immediately after Paine's death in order to avoid a libel or slander suit that Paine had threatened. In his malicious and defamatory biography, Cheetham wrote:
 "He did not constantly drink to excess, yet he frequently got excessively tipsy. Once Mr. Jarvis knew him to abstain from liquor two weeks. He had fits of intoxication, and when these came on, he would sit up at night, tippling until he fell off his chair. Disposed to listen to his conversation, Mr. Jarvis sat with him one night from twelve to three, doing all he politely could to keep him sober. At three he left him at his bottle. At four he returned to the room and found him drunk on the floor. Mr. Jarvis wished to raise him up, but Paine desired to lie still. I have vertigo, the vertigo, said he. Yes, said Mr. Jarvis, taking up the bottle and looking at its diminished contents, you have it deep -- deep!" [Cheetham, Life of Thomas Paine, 274-5]

Now, Jack Fruchtman wrote that "Jarvis thought he [Paine - author] sometimes drank too heavily, although he never accused him of being an alcoholic or drunkard." Jarvis was abstemious and religious, so he probably thought ANY elevated drinking was too much. And besides, as we shall see further along, Jarvis strongly repudiated Cheetham's account. What is interesting here is that Fruchtmans only citation for his allegation that "Jarvis thought he sometimes drank too heavily" was the Paine biography of Gilbert Vale [p.153] which makes no like proposition and it was Gilbert Vale who, more than any Paine biographer, repudiated the mythology of Paine's supposed drunkenness. While this would be loose scholarship in a more academic context, Fruchtman's bio is a popular work and cited more loosely as is characteristic of the genre.
John Keane's biography of Paine is perhaps the most intensively researched and cited of all Paine biographies and I have written elsewhere that it is an indispensable work for the library of any Paine scholar or enthusiast. It is not, however, without difficulties -- one of which is his frequent use of Cheetham's attack-biography without disclosure of its use or citation to Cheetham. I have documented a number of places where Keane resorted to Cheetham's account without disclosure or citation. The present account is one of them. On page 524 of his biography he repeated Cheetham's account almost word-for-word .... without any citation for his source. Did he simply overlook the citation to Cheetham's account? Keane's persistent use of Cheetham in his biography without attribution certainly gives the impression of a more systemic oversight or systematic omission. 

Cheetham's biography is not now nor has it ever been reliable. Cheetham was a convicted and notorious libeler who was in fact successfully sued for slander based on this very work. There is little doubt that he wrote his bio of Paine in order to curry favor with British Tories and American Federalists-- Cheetham fled to Britain largely in order to escape further lawsuits. Madame Bonneville, who Cheetham accused of having fathered at least one child by Paine, successfully sued Cheetham in an American court so hostile to Paine that the judge commented on the beneficial  effect he thought Cheetham's biography produced on the morals of society. 
 More importantly, Jarvis himself repudiated the entire account as related by Cheetham. The great American portraitist -- who painted, drew and sculpted some of our finest images of Paine -- lived until 1839. He was known for his wit, conversation and integrity -- and Gilbert Vale knew him personally. Vale was an experienced journalist and scholarly researcher whose investigation of the "black legend" of Paine's supposed drunkenness led him ultimately to write his own Life of Thomas Paine [1839]. Vale, whose credibility is without question, wrote that 
"Here he [Paine] soon recovered, and he and Mr. Jarvis became good companions; the one the greatest wit of the age, and the other, though now an old man, not deficient in sprightly thoughts or conversation , and abounding in information. Mr. Jarvis still speaks of their agreeable companionship with much gust, and relates a number of anecdotes highly characteristic; and he positively denies to us the language ascribed to him by Cheetham. As Mr. Jarvis was at this time in good circumstances, and received Mr. Paine as a companion, the Cheetham stories of Mr. Paine's dirtiness kill themselves, for it is absurd to suppose Mr. Jarvis would have had such a companion." 

In fine then, all of the accounts of Jarvis' testimony to Paine's drunkenness devolve on the discredited, litigated, and personally repudiated -- by Jarvis himself -- account of James Cheetham, the lying Tory expatriate.

© Kenneth W. Burchell 2011, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, May 1, 2011


The president said "preding."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thomas Paine portrait by Charles Wilson Peale

In reply to two colleagues who recently inquired about the identity of the painter of this portrait of Thomas Paine: 

With respect to this particular portrait the editor of this blog cannot pretend to absolute certainty because there exists no comprehensive catalog of the known portraits of Thomas Paine. To my recollection, Conway is the only author/scholar to write about the subject in any depth and his account (found at the end of his Paine bio) is inadequate and quite outdated.  Many more portraits are now known, but the attributions on just as many are confused or controversial. The editor is in possession of a considerable file on the subject, has learned in the process that a descriptive catalog or bibliography is a greater task than appears at first blush and would welcome the collaboration of another scholar or enthusiast for the eventual realization of  such a work -- I'm not getting any younger.

The portrait is correctly attributed, I believe, to Charles Wilson Peale (April 15, 1741 – February 22, 1827), who knew Paine. There is or was a copy of it hanging in Constitution Hall -- I believe I recall seeing it there some years ago. Conway wrote -- on what authority he does not say -- that the latter is a second copy by Peale.  The original is said to hang in the Second Bank of the United States in Philadelphia, now an important Portrait Gallery of paintings by Charles Wilson Peale.

You will sometimes also see it attributed to Bass Otis (July 17, 1784 - November 3, 1861), but if  Otis painted one -- and I don't pretend to know to a certainly -- it would logically been a copy or study.

Nobody, to my knowledge, has ever done a thorough analysis of the extant and/or earliest copies of this work or any other Paine portrait. There must be material enough among them for any number of monographs, dissertations or other studies by present-day or aspiring scholars and art historians.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thomas Paine, Arthur O'Conner and the Rebellion of 1798

While transported to prison for his part in the Rebellion of 1798, Arthur O'Conner of the United Irishmen penned the following lines. While an apparently loyal panegyric to crown and country, it was meant to be read in the order indicated in the lines below:

1 The pomp of courts and pride of kings,
3 I prize above all earthly things,
5 I love my country, but the king --
7 Above all men his praise I sing,
9 The royal banner are displayed,
11 And may success the standard aid

2 I fain would banish far from hence,
4 The rights of man and common sense
6 Confusion to his odious reign
8 That foe of princes Thomas Paine
10 Defeat and ruin seize the cause,
12 Of France, its liberties and laws

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Thomas Paine and Phillis Wheatley

Thanks to Rosemary Braun for pointing this out:

"In April 1776, Thomas Paine published Phillis' poem to George Washington in The Pennsylvania Magazine." 

Roberts, Jamie. "Phillis Wheatley's Journey to Greatness" in American Spirit 145:1 (Jan/Feb, 2011), pp. 46-48.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Thomas Paine on Natural Religion

"It is only in the creation that all our ideas and conceptions of a word of God can unite. The creation speaketh a universal language, independently of human speech or human language, multiplied and various as they may be. It is an ever-existing original, which every man can read. It cannot be forged; it cannot be counterfeited; it cannot be lost; it cannot altered; it cannot be suppressed. It does not depend upon the will of man whether it shall be published or not: it publishes itself from one end of the earth to the other. It preaches to all nations and to all worlds; and this word of God reveals to man all that is necessary for man to know of God." Thomas Paine, Age of Reason, Pt. 1, 1794

Thursday, March 17, 2011

New home for the Thomas Paine Collection in Iona College Library

The collection of pamphlets, books, ephemera, artifacts, journals and other writings formerly the collection of the now defunct Thomas Paine Museum of New Rochelle, New York finally found an home at the Iona College Library. Amidst the controversy over the sell-off of some of its most valuable and rare holdings, the collection was first moved to the New York State Historical Society while what is known as a 511 Hearing took place in the Superior Court of the State of New York in order to determine the appropriate and safest site for relocation and care of the collection.

Friends of this blog will recall a number posts on the subject under discussion, among them

A spokesman for the Office of the Attorney General of the State of New York later repudiated the notion that any kind of "deal" was made, preferred to speak in terms of an "agreement," and emphasized that all of the actions were "voluntary." As it turns out, all seven points of the supposedly voluntary agreement -- reported here on this blog -- have held true, with the result that what is now being called The Thomas Paine Collection was at last quietly moved to Iona College. Other than the new page or two on Iona College's website, there seems to have been little or no fanfare, not even a press release.

A point with regard to the name -- perhaps a bit overstated, it harks back to the bad old days of the body that formerly held the collection, the Thomas Paine National Historical Association (TPNHA) of now controversial if not permanently tarnished reputation. Back during the time when it was a functioning -- if mostly contentious -- organization, the Burton/McCartin "leadership" was forever generating inflated claims for the association and for Thomas Paine, among them the hoary old shibboleth of their cohort ... that it was Thomas Paine who actually "authored the Declaration of Independence." Perhaps there are echos of that same tendency to overstate in the present name for this assemblage of evidently 200 items, "The Thomas Paine Collection." A far more comprehensive and important collection of original Paine material, for example,  is archived at the Library of the American Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; the Colonel Richard Gimbel Collection of Thomas Paine Papers. On the other hand, some of the finest holdings of the TPNHA were disposed of in the controversial sell-off while other items they claimed -- such as Paine's writing-trunk, spectacles and other artifacts -- are, to the best of my knowledge, without provenance. Unless they can be positively documented, Paine's supposed ownership will be just another enormous but unsupportable claim. Certainly it would be wonderful if the trunk and other items prove to be Paine's, but even if the can be thus established, this is nothing like "THE Thomas Paine Collection." Just a suggestion -- perhaps it would be better to add a qualifier and call it "The Thomas Paine Collection at Iona College" or something along those lines.

More will doubtless follow. All Thomas Paine all the time here at the Thomas Paine Review.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Gilbert Vale on Thomas Paine

"Other men have followed events; Paine actually created them." Gilbert Vale, The Life of Thomas Paine  (New York: published by the author, 1839), p. 34.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Thomas Paine on wealth, riches, and affluence.

‎"The contrast of affluence and wretchedness continually meeting and offending the eye, is like dead and living bodies chained together. Though I care as little about riches as any man, I am a friend to riches because they are capable of good." Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice, 1797.

Thomas Paine to Rep. Peter King's on his Muslim Hearings

“He that would make his own liberty secure, must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” Thomas Paine, Dissertation on First Principles of Government, 1795

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thomas Paine on natural religion, science, and superstion.

"That which is now called natural philosophy, embracing the whole circle of science, of which astronomy occupies the chief place, is the study of the works of God, and of the power and wisdom of God in His works, and is the true theology.

As to the theology that is now studied in its place, it is the study of human opinions and of human fancies concerning God.  It is not the study of God Himself in the works that He has made, but in the works or writings that man has made; and it is not among the least of the mischiefs that the Christian system has done to the world, that it has abandoned the original and beautiful system of theology, like a beautiful innocent, to distress and reproach, to make room for the hag of superstition."

Thomas Paine, Age of Reason I, 1794.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bill Moyers on Thomas Paine, Harvey J. Kaye, and Richard Brookhiser

This review was originally posted on a spot that I had forgotten all about ... until someone replied to it just today. It's a right decent little review, I believe and it made me laugh out loud, so wanted to share it with you:

Bill Moyers on Thomas Paine, Harvey J. Kaye, and Richard Brookhiser

Finally got a chance to watch the Moyers/Paine broadcast
with Kaye and Brookhiser.

The intro by Moyers was marred with the usual "bull"
about Paine dying broke (he was quite well-off) and abandoned
(that's how people died in those days -- there WERE no
hospitals or hospice unless you were Catholic -- and
he wasn't "abandoned" any more than any elderly person
is when they die; we all die alone to some extent). Anyway,
the intro repeated the usual twaddle first grunted out
by Paine's enemies and repeated by every uncritical
commentator and author ever since. Bill, with the distinguished
historians you had there, I really believe you could have done
a better job. DISAPPOINTED!! 8^)

[I suppose I should drop Moyers a friendly email
a chide them a bit]

Brookhiser characterized the Girondin as a "bloody gang,"
repeating the old Anglophile/Francophobe hypocrisy-of-the-
ages ... as if ANY government (ours included) wasn't or
isn't "bloody." What? Burke's treasured British monarchy
wasn't bloody? Bloody hell! And what about Brookhiser's
heros? Bloody every one.

Harvey got his point in about Paine "quickly discovered the
'American spirit' and made it his own," a position that,
while open to careful criticism, is honestly defensible.

Kaye also used the correct response on the LETTER TO
GEORGE WASHINGTON, though with less force that
I would prefer. Washington was idolized when elected
and SCORNED AND HATED by half the populace when
he left office precisely for the reasons that Paine cites:
most notably the 1794 Jay Treaty. We should all memorize
the Antifederalist slogan:

Damn John Jay!
Damn everyone that won't damn John Jay!
Damn every one that won't put lights in his window
and sit up all night damning John Jay!

Washington's conduct
throughout that event was despicable. He was not at all
idolized by all and the virtual deification of Washington
largely occurred after his death. And while there is
no proof he knew Paine was in
prison, there is plenty of reason to think that he did
and no proof he didn't. Morris was Washington's
closest and most trusted friend and adviser and he
can be supposed to have been carrying out a policy
endorsed by Washington, whether Washington had
plausible deniability or not.

The discussion on AGE OF REASON was weak. In
defense of all three participants, however, it is a tricky subject. If AoR
destroyed Paine's reputation, how come it was such a
great best-seller here? It sold like hot-cakes, was almost
universally popular with university students and everybody
read it. Freethinkers of all political persuasions were not
put off. Yes, some Democratic-Republicans were offended,
but the Federalists used it to attack and discredit
Paine and Jefferson's democratic tendencies. Jefferson
was attacked just as hotly for his "infidelism" as Paine
was and, as someone on the panel pointed out, did not
write a best-selling book on the subject. As I wrote in
article in the current issue of FREE INQUIRY, "Paine
was attacked with the cudgel of religion
on account of his political views." That trend continues,

Originally posted

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Thomas Paine -- "An association of vices ..."

"An association of vices will reduce us more than the sword." Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1780.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thomas Paine birthday greeting

The Thomas Paine Review greets all admirers of Paine today with warm best wishes on his 274th birthday anniversary. In honor of the occasion, we have posted an essay on the history of the Thomas Paine Birthday Celebrations on the pages just to the right of this post. See: Birthday Party Politics --->

Friday, January 28, 2011

Thomas Paine -- "If there must be trouble ..."

"If there must be trouble, let it be in my day that my child may have peace."
Thomas Paine, The American Crisis, 1776.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Nation Needs a Leader -- Thomas Paine Review

In retrospect, LBJ looks a good deal more sympathetic (or just pathetic) by comparison to how I saw him then. I wasn't old enough to vote for him and sure as hell didn't support him. In 1968, we supported McCarthy -- we demonstrated against LBJ. Despised Bobby Kennedy ... can't even remember why for certain ... and in retrospect that looks harsh to me, too.

So I do try to show a little wisdom in dealing with Obama. But he's a great disappointment and, for my part, I attribute it to a failure of leadership on his part. The hand-writing was on the wall from the start. You don't get to be first black editor of the Harvard Law Review by stepping on people's toes. This guy has been a deal-maker from the get-go. Can you say .... "c-h-i-c-a-g-o...."   sigh ...........

The nation needs a leader, but I fear the one we get will not be the one we need ... rather, it will be the one we deserve.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Thomas Paine's religious belief or creed.

"IT has been my intention, for several years past, to publish my thoughts upon religion. I am well aware of the difficulties that attend the subject, and from that consideration, had reserved it to a more advanced period of life. I intended it to be the last offering I should make to my fellow-citizens of all nations, and that at a time when the purity of the motive that induced me to it, could not admit of a question, even by those who might disapprove the work.

The circumstance that has now taken place in France of the total abolition of the whole national order of priesthood, and of everything appertaining to compulsive systems of religion, and compulsive articles of faith, has not only precipitated my intention, but rendered a work of this kind exceedingly necessary, lest in the general wreck of superstition, of false systems of government, and false theology, we lose sight of morality, of humanity, and of the theology that is true.

As several of my colleagues and others of my fellow-citizens of France have given me the example of making their voluntary and individual profession of faith, I also will make mine; and I do this with all that sincerity and frankness with which the mind of man communicates with itself.

I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.

I believe in the equality of man; and I believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy, and endeavoring to make our fellow-creatures happy.

But, lest it should be supposed that I believe in many other things in addition to these, I shall, in the progress of this work, declare the things I do not believe, and my reasons for not believing them.
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.

All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
I do not mean by this declaration to condemn those who believe otherwise; they have the same right to their belief as I have to mine. But it is necessary to the happiness of man, that he be mentally faithful to himself. Infidelity does not consist in believing, or in disbelieving; it consists in professing to believe what he does not believe.

It is impossible to calculate the moral mischief, if I may so express it, that mental lying has produced in society. When a man has so far corrupted and prostituted the chastity of his mind, as to subscribe his professional belief to things he does not believe, he has prepared himself for the commission of every other crime. He takes up the trade of a priest for the sake of gain, and in order to qualify himself for that trade, he begins with a perjury. Can we conceive any thing more destructive to morality than this?
Soon after I had published the pamphlet Common Sense, in America, I saw the exceeding probability that a revolution in the system of government would be followed by a revolution in the system of religion. The adulterous connection of church and state, wherever it had taken place, whether Jewish, Christian, or Turkish, had so effectually prohibited by pains and penalties, every discussion upon established creeds, and upon first principles of religion, that until the system of government should be changed, those subjects could not be brought fairly and openly before the world; but that whenever this should be done, a revolution in the system of religion would follow. Human inventions and priestcraft would be detected; and man would return to the pure, unmixed and unadulterated belief of one God, and no more.

Every national church or religion has established itself by pretending some special mission from God, communicated to certain individuals. The Jews have their Moses; the Christians their Jesus Christ, their apostles and saints; and the Turks their Mahomet, as if the way to God was not open to every man alike.

Each of those churches show certain books, which they call revelation, or the word of God. The Jews say, that their word of God was given by God to Moses, face to face; the Christians say, that their word of God came by divine inspiration: and the Turks say, that their word of God (the Koran) was brought by an angel from Heaven. Each of those churches accuse the other of unbelief; and for my own part, I disbelieve them all.

As it is necessary to affix right ideas to words, I will, before I proceed further into the subject, offer some other observations on the word revelation. Revelation, when applied to religion, means something communicated immediately from God to man.

No one will deny or dispute the power of the Almighty to make such a communication, if he pleases. But admitting, for the sake of a case, that something has been revealed to a certain person, and not revealed to any other person, it is revelation to that person only. When he tells it to a second person, a second to a third, a third to a fourth, and so on, it ceases to be a revelation to all those persons. It is revelation to the first person only, and hearsay to every other, and consequently they are not obliged to believe it.

It is a contradiction in terms and ideas, to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second-hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication — after this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner; for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.
When Moses told the children of Israel that he received the two tables of the commandments from the hands of God, they were not obliged to believe him, because they had no other authority for it than his telling them so; and I have no other authority for it than some historian telling me so. The commandments carry no internal evidence of divinity with them; they contain some good moral precepts, such as any man qualified to be a lawgiver, or a legislator, could produce himself, without having recourse to supernatural intervention."

Thomas Paine
Age of Reason, Part First, Section 1