Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Quote check ..."the belief in a cruel god makes a cruel man."

This quotation has proliferated widely on the internet and though it seemed at first a bit suspect, it turns out to accurate. The full quotation and citation are as follows:

“It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man.”
     Thomas Paine -- "A letter: being an answer to a friend, on the publication of The age of reason." Paris; May 12, 1797.

This letter was originally printed in The Prospect, Or View of the Moral World, published by the blind deist lecturer Elihu Palmer. Insofar as I can tell, the recipient is unknown.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Blogfodder -- scrap the whole government


Nope .. cannot agree. The American republic -- always far from perfect but nevertheless an ever-changing republican experiment -- has been hijacked. By whom? That should be obvious -- the great military, industrial, financial, corporate complex. Money is power because we have made it so. By the way, this is not new. The revolution of "We the People" and "We hold these truths to be self-evident" was hijacked at the 1789 Constitutional Convention and we the people have been in a constant struggle ever since. It took until 1842 to secure universal WHITE MANhood suffrage -- 1922 for the female vote -- 1960s to enfranchise blacks and others. Two centuries of struggle and progress hang now in the balance. What we want is to SECURE our republic and certainly neither in control of the oligarchs (what we have now) nor that of the advocates of puerile flavor-of-the-month political solutions whether identified as anarchism or libertarianism.

Government is not the enemy; the FINANCIAL system is the enemy -- and they own our (and your) government .. and you. Less regulation isn't the answer -- it's what got into this mess. Take control of the government and move it forward. The time is always now.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Thomas Paine: American, Brit, citizen of France ... or CITIZEN OF THE WORLD?

(Submitted by RB)

This is one of the perennial questions that
arise in Thomas Paine studies.

Certainly not French as Elisha Ward alleged in the 1806 Board of Review decision that denied Paine's citizenship and right to vote in New Rochelle. After all George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson are but a few of the many who would be French citizens and ineligible for office or honors by the same evidence ie. honorary French citizenship bestowed by the revolutionary French Assembly.

Paine doubtless repudiated King George and English citizenship when he was sworn into General Daniel Roberdeau's "Flying Camp" and later served as aide-de-camp for General Nathaniel Greene in the Continental Army. The British crown put a price on Paine's head and would have hung him if it could. 

Elisha Ward tipped his hand when he replied "Our minister at Paris, Gouverneur Morris, would not reclaim you as an American citizen when you were imprisoned in the Luxembourg at Paris, and General Washington refused to do it." First consider the implications for Paine's Letter to George Washington. At the very least it lends weight to Paine's allegation that Washington and Morris conspired in his imprisonment and that this was recognized and bragged about in Federalist circles. More importantly, though, it ignores the events that transpired after the plotting Morris fled France and James Monroe arrived as the new Minister Plenipotentiary. Paine himself documented the correspondence between James Monroe and the Secretary of State Edmund Randolph that confirmed his citizenship and the lawfulness of his reclamation from Luxembourg Prison by later president James Monroe. The Federalist board ignored the evidence and ruled against Paine.
Paine was deeply stung and angered -- and eventually vindicated. 139 years later, the municipality retroactively granted Paine "full citizenship and the rights thereof."

Paine certainly belongs to all the world and called himself, as did many, a citizen of the world. And more than that, Paine saw his own thought as universal in scope, based upon reason, nature, the universe.

But Paine claimed American citizenship and Americans should claim him, too.

"Our citizenship in the United States is our national character. Our citizenship in any particular state is only our local distinction. By the latter we are known at home, by the former to the world. Our great title is AMERICANS — our inferior one varies with the place."

The American Crisis: Philadelphia, April 19, 1783

Our citizenship in the United States is our national character. Our citizenship in any particular state is only our local distinction. By the latter we are known at home, by the former to the world. Our great title is AMERICANS -- our inferior one varies with the place.   - See more at:
Our citizenship in the United States is our national character. Our citizenship in any particular state is only our local distinction. By the latter we are known at home, by the former to the world. Our great title is AMERICANS -- our inferior one varies with the place.   - See more at:

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

RIP Bonnie Lange

As mentioned in the previous post on "Thomas Paine's opera glasses," Bonnie Lange has shed her mortal coil and departed earthly life. She was the last publisher/editor of The TruthSeeker journal ... by some estimations the longest continuously published freethought publication in US history. The TS was a great paper in its heyday prior to the 1920s and the original publishers -- D.M. Bennett and the Macdonald brothers -- did more for Thomas Paine's memory and record than anyone in their period. Bennett acquired the seed-library of his project from Gilbert Vale, the subject of this writer's dissertation and guiding personality in the erection of the Thomas Paine monument in New Rochelle, NY. Rod Bradford, btw, has written a worthwhile biography of Bennett to which the author of this blog contributed many hours of editing to the rough draft. Here are the data on Rod's book:

Bradford, Roderick
D. M. Bennett: The Truth Seeker
  • Hardcover: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (October 11, 2006)
  • ISBN-10: 1591024307
  • ISBN-13: 978-1591024309
All that aside, the legacy of Bonnie Lange is mixed. The TS had already been stained by the militant atheism of one publisher (Charles Lee Smith, 1937-1954) and the pro-Hitler, anti-semitic rantings of another (Bonnie was protegĂ© and "girl-friday" of the latter, James Hervey Johnson, 1954-1988). Bonnie took the TS even further afield from its original mission by the admixture of a succession of conspiracy/illuminist theorists including Zacharia Sitchin, David Ickes and Jon Rapoport.  Bonnie and I remained friends until her death -- a miracle, since, as I often reminded her, there is indeed a fine line between having an open mind and a hole in one's head.

Perhaps the TS will be reborn and return to something reflecting its early integrity and quality -- it was a FINE periodical in its glory-period and counted Mark Twain, Margaret Sanger, Clarance Darrow, Robert G. Ingersoll and many other progressive crusaders among its subscribers or contributors. Mr. Bradford appears to be the best person to carry the periodical forward, but if it sinks into the historical record, then RIP Bonnie and the TS.

Addendum: the TS website at contains no mention of Bonnie's death nor obituary. How sad.

Caveat emptor -- Thomas Paine's opera glasses

Very shortly after the passing of the late Bonnie Lange -- longtime friend, editor and publisher of the TRUTHSEEKER journal and Thomas Paine enthusiast -- rumors of the existence of Thomas Paine's opera-glasses began to make the rounds. We've been contacted by a number of colleagues who were variously amused or interested to know of the possibility of their existence. And then they appeared on eBay. The auction ends today ... within about two hours ... and not surprisingly there are no takers for the minimum $5000.00 US opening bid. Here's the link to the sale:

The owner has not contacted the author of this blog even though we surely represent the best qualifications in the country to evaluate this item -- combining professional history credentials, a good record of published Paine scholarship as well as professional appraisal training and over 40 years of experience (fine and antique jewelry/gems and antiquarian books) that includes antique opera glasses and similar objects.

There are several reasons to suspect that Paine never owned these glasses. First, the style of glass depicted in the photo was not manufactured until WELL after 1825 ... really, these adjustable lenses weren't in production until much later c. 1890 to 1910. Remembering that Paine died in 1809, this makes his ownership problematic. The "documentation" of provenance provided for the sale is equally problematic.

The present owner is said to have inherited them from Bonnie and certainly can't be blamed for wishing that these were Paine's or to make a fast few thousand by turning them over. But as time goes on, one suspects that the owner MUST be increasingly aware that neither their ownership record NOR their mechanical style fits the minimum requirement for authentication.

Perhaps there is more to this story and while we always welcome correction from credible and veracious sources, until that time comes we emphatically recommend a "no bid" on this item.

[and no ... there is no record that Paine ever attended an opera in his life!]

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Institute For Thomas Paine Studies established at Iona College

The Thomas Paine Review wishes well to this new educational enterprise at the Ryan Library of Iona College (see link above). The remaining collection from the old Paine House (Museum) will finally receive the care, conservation and archival treatment that it has so long needed and an end made to the sell-off of its holdings.

For background, past commentary and reportage, see:

Many questions remain. The article cites the collection as the only place where one can examine
Paine artifacts AND printed materials together ... however the provenance of the artifacts remains, insofar as we know, publicly undocumented. And again insofar as we can tell no catalog or index of the entire collection has yet been published -- though the library lists 200 searchable items. Missing in all the hyperbole and self-assessments of the college publicist and quotations by "officers" of what's left of the TPNHA is a level-headed comparison with the (Richard Gimbel) Thomas Paine Collection at the library of the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia. The Gimbel Collection -- far larger (the catalog lists at least 5334 items) and more comprehensive by far -- has been there for years. So what exactly are the grandiloquent claims in the publicity based on? Certainly not on the printed collection -- not even close. So if the artifacts and curio are going to be the big draw, then they'd better be of solid provenance.

The educational mission of the library looks more promising and we wish them well in all events when it comes to making Paine's name and works more widely known.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Thomas Paine lived in Bordentown, New Jersey for 25 years?

A friend to this blog, Rod Bradford, sent in the following link from the New Jersey Hall of Fame into which Paine was recently inducted:

The text on Paine reads:

"Thomas Paine, Bordentown (1737-1809) Born in England, this great thinker immigrated to the colonies in 1774 where he was an author, pamphleteer, revolutionary, leading intellectual in pre-Revolutionary War efforts. Bordentown was his home for more than 25 years."

Certainly Paine kept up a long connection with Bordentown, the Kirkbrides and others in the area, but to say it was his home (he purchased a cottage and 7 acres in 1783) for 25 years tends to mislead since Paine was out of the country within three and a half years, didn't return to America for another 15, did not live in the property when he returned and sold it off in 1808, leaving a total on-sight residence of perhaps 3.5 years out of 25.

An article by Mae Silver of Bordentown seems to be the source of the Bordentown "claim" to Paine. The author met Ms. Silver many years ago, holds her in friendship and esteem and vouches without reserve for her sincere and steadfast interest in both Thomas Paine and Bordentown.

Ellen Brown and Thomas Paine

Straight, sensible talk on economics.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

On the 4th of July: Thomas Paine, the greatest revolutionary of them all.

Thomas Paine by the American artist John Trumball. The match to the Jefferson miniature, both at Monticello.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Painesville, Wisconsin

Built in 1852 by Protestants from Wittenburg, Germany who settled in Franklin and Oak Creek, Wisconsin, the Painesville Meeting Hall is located on 27th and Ryan Road in Franklin, Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. The meeting hall originally served the First Free Congregation (Frei Gemeinde), later used as an Army Depot during the Civil War as well as by the Underground Railroad and was the first and oldest Freethinker Hall in Wisconsin. Entered to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977..

This link and the photos below courtesy of Thomas Paine friends, Harvey J. and Lorna Kaye.

Lorna Kaye

Thursday, May 30, 2013

New video: American Freethought

The Thomas Paine Review congratulates longtime friend and colleague Rod Bradford on the production of an outstanding new four-part video series on the history of the freethought movement, a subject almost (and sadly) unknown to citizens of America and the world over. Rod and Tom Flynn (see credits below) have made a significant contribution with this new series. The first part is available for view at the link below and features a substantial section dealing with Thomas Paine.

This is a four-hour film series about the freethought movement  from the late eighteenth century until the 1930s. Part one only is available at this juncture and interested parties are now required to email the writer/producer for a password in order to view the video (see note at bottom of page).

Commentators include:

DAVID R. CONTOSTA, professor of history, Chestnut Hill College, author, Rebel Giants: The Revolutionary Lives of  Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin.

CAROL FAULKNER, professor of history, Syracuse University, author, 
Lucretia Mott's Heresy: Abolition and Women's Rights in Nineteenth-Century America.

CHRIS FINAN, President of the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, author,
From the Palmer Raids to the Patriot Act: A History of the  Fight for Free Speech in America.

TOM FLYNN, Executive Director of the Council for Secular Humanism, editor of Free Inquiry and The New Encyclopedia of Unbelief.

JACK FRUCHTMAN JR., professor of political science, Towson University, author, Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom / The Political Philosophy of Thomas Paine.

LAWRENCE B. GOODHEART, professor of history, University of Connecticut, author of Abolitionist, Actuary, Atheist: Elizur Wright and the Reform Impulse

HELEN L. HOROWITZ, professor of history, Smith College, author of Rereading Sex: Battles Over Sexual Knowledge and Suppression in Nineteenth-Century America.

Written, produced, and directed by RODERICK BRADFORD, author of D. M. Bennett: The Truth Seeker. 

Note: When I first posted this, the movie was a simple click to view. The producer has, however, just changed the link (which I have edited) and required that you email for a password in order to view part one. I'll post updated links from time to time as they become available.

Kamikaze attack on Thomas Paine Hotel?

 or "medical siezure?" Wonder if they administered a breathalizer test?

Saturday, March 16, 2013

How Thomas Paine met Benjamin Franklin -- no mystery.

A respected journalist and author inquired recently about the first meeting and introduction of Thomas Paine to Benjamin Franklin. There is indeed a bit of confusion and opacity among some historians and biographers of Paine on this issue. With some important exceptions, the uncertainty has been perpetuated by Paine's biographers. A few examples may serve to illustrate the whole. Moncure Daniel Conway's influential biography alluded to Paine's friendship with Oliver Goldsmith at the time of his introduction to Franklin -- perhaps contributing to the oft-repeated and incorrect assumption that it was Goldsmith who introduced them -- but seems otherwise unaware of how it came about. Samuel Edwards perpetuated the Goldsmith error in his Rebel! A Life of Thomas Paine. David Powell belabored the same erroneous point in his Tom Paine: The Greatest Exile. The infamous and slanderous attack-biography of James Cheetham makes no mention of how Paine and Franklin met. In the still widely circulated Thomas Paine: America's Godfather, biographer W. E. Woodward made no mention. He simply wrote that Paine called on Franklin from time to time in London during 1773-1774. John Keane's otherwise exhaustive -- though somewhat flawed -- biography overlooked how the introduction came about.  More recently, an article "The Sharpened Quill" in THE NEW YORKER 10-16-2006 by Harvard professor Jill Lepore states that Paine "once caught Franklin's eye during a chance meeting in London." Prof. Lepore's observation was in accordance with the online website that attributes their meeting to "happenstance." (The author has written the website with the correction). To be fair, the list of scholars who got it right includes David Freeman Hawke, Alfred Owen Aldridge, A. J. Ayer, Jack Fruchtman, Harvey J. Kaye, Vikki Vickers and others; but with the exception of Harvey J. Kaye's work, most have had little exposure in other than academic circles.

The mystery of how Thomas Paine met Benjamin Franklin is no mystery. Paine recounted the circumstances in a letter to his friend and political ally Henry Laurens of South Carolina, second president of the Second Continental Congress and president at the ratification of the first constitution.

"As I always had a taste for science, I naturally had friends of that cast in England; and among the rest George Lewis Scott, Esq., through whose formal introduction my first acquaintance with Dr. Franklin commenced. I esteem Mr. Scott as one of the most amiable characters I know of, but his particular situation had been that in the minority of the present King he was his sub-preceptor, and from the occasional traditionary accounts yet remaining in the family of Mr. Scott, I obtained the true character of the present King from his childhood upwards, and, you may naturally suppose, of the present ministry."

"To the Honorable Henry Laurens. Philadelphia.  January, 14 1779" in Philip Foner, ed., Complete Writings of Thomas Paine (New York: The Citadel Press, 1945), 2:1162.