Tuesday, August 6, 2013

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

(Submitted by RB)
Reply:

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: http://quotationsbook.com/quote/6925/#sthash.HCjDlrhf.dpuf
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: http://quotationsbook.com/quote/6925/#sthash.HCjDlrhf.dpuf

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Ken. He most certainly was a United States citizen, foremost of all. I treasure Paine's attitude towards the whole nationalist pride thing, though... "The world is my country, my religion, to do good" (Might be slightly paraphrased, but the inner Paine is crystal clear in this, and is where we all should be.)

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