HISTORY 101

Courtesy of Hank Shiver

 

teacher-mad“History is to ascribe the American Revolution to Thomas Paine.”

John Adams (1776)

 

“Tom Paine has almost no influence on present-day thinking in the United States because he is unknown to the average citizen. Perhaps I might say right here that this is a national loss and a deplorable lack of understanding concerning the man who first proposed and first wrote those impressive words, ‘the United States of America.’ But it is hardly strange. Paine’s teachings have been debarred from schools everywhere and his views of life misrepresented until his memory is hidden in shadows, or he is looked upon as of unsound mind.” Thomas Edison: June 7, 1925

“When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for a people to advance from that subordination in which they have hitherto remained, and to assume among powers of the earth the equal and independent station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s god entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the change.

We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal and independent; that from that equal creation they derive rights inherent and inalienable, among which are the preservation of life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness...” Thomas Paine. (attributed)

On January 10, 1776, Paine published Common Sense. “...a long habit of not thinking a thing WRONG, gives it a superficial appearance of being RIGHT, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.” Common Sense gave the people of the Colonies the justification for rebellion against England and the monarchy. As with much of Paine’s writings, he did not sign his name to it. His pamphlet outlined a democratic republic with a head of state. Every person working on the US Constitution had a copy of Common Sense. http://www.freeaudio.org/tpaine/commonsense.html will allow one to listen to the entire work. The profits from the 600,000 copies were given to General Washington.

The Crisis Papers consisted of 16 different letters to or about differing subjects concerning the Colonies (December 1776 - December 1783). Washington read each paper to his troops.  Quotes from the first paragraph Crisis I gives one an idea of the power of persuasion in Paine’s words: “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. 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.”

Washington wanted to inspire them and Paine did with, “THOSE who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”

Without Paine, I can’t imagine how the lands of the current USA would be laid out politically. Most likely, there would be no USA. The Age of Reason and The Rights of Man would change future generations and open their minds. The religious community would hate him for it and have Teddy Roosevelt describe America’s Godfather as, “a dirty little atheist.” And who said Teddy never lied?

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