TO UNDERSTAND AMERICA OF TODAY IT IS IMPORTANT TO LEARN ABOUT THOMAS PAINE

by Felix Quigley

October 1, 2009

 

I believe it is vital now for readers to make a serious study of the American Revolution and especially of the life and political positions of Thomas Paine who wrote Common Sense and The Rights of Man.

 

As part of that I have found this survey of a book on an Amazon site which at least allows us to dip our toes into the water, rather tentatively.

 

The book in question is “Thomas Paine and the Promise of America” by author Harvey J. Kaye

The first review of this book is by

  R. Hardy “Rob Hardy” (Columbus, Mississippi USA)

 

[Begin review on Amazon here]

 

The astonishing revolution that brought forth the American republic seems an unending source of curiosity; in the past year there has been one book after another about the American Revolution itself or about the Founding Fathers who eventually brought a Constitution to cap the Revolution’s success. Perhaps we will never tire of examining the start of our nation. Perhaps, as Tom Paine himself wrote, even now “It is yet too soon to write the history of the Revolution.” Paine himself has been written out of the Revolution many times by those who could not stand his political or religious principles, but as Harvey J. Kaye shows in _Thomas Paine and the Promise of America_ (Hill and Wang), Paine’s authentically radical voice was not only an essential spark to unite the colonists against Britain, but also provided a legacy of inspiration to reformers in the succeeding two centuries.

Kaye’s book encompasses two parts, one a brisk biography of Paine, and then a biography of Paine’s posthumous life within American history and ideas. It was only in 1774 that Paine, upon the recommendation of Benjamin Franklin, crossed the Atlantic to Philadelphia. He was 38 years old, and quickly became a journal editor. He wrote _Common Sense_ anonymously, exhorting his countrymen not only to independence, but to republicanism. He formulated his arguments so that everyone could understand them, and everyone did; _Common Sense_ united and inspired the colonists to a new American cause. He became involved in politics again in France with the storming of the Bastille. He wrote _The Rights of Man_ which exhorted both Frenchmen and Americans to ensure revolutions so complete that slavery would be ended, women would be equals, peace would be enforced by a global union of republics, and church and state would be completely separated. _The Age of Reason_ was his assault on scripture and organized religion as mythologies imposed on humanity by clerics “to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” He scorned the Bible for its cruelty and its lack of morality, leading antagonists for centuries to berate Paine as an atheist. He was, however, like many of the most famous of the founders, a deist, but he was one who put into book form his distrust of the general religion of his society.

The religious controversy has continued and has been kept alive both by the freethinkers who have claimed Paine as their own and by Christians who not content with hating the facts of Paine’s life made up scurrilous lying biographies about him and false legends such as the one about his deathbed recantation of his disbelief. Teddy Roosevelt called him a “filthy little atheist”, but he was none of those three. His lack of conventional religious belief has colored how his countrymen have perceived him ever since. Mark Twain and Herman Melville admired him; Lincoln avidly read _The Age of Reason_ and may well have written a deist treatise of his own, but his friends ensured no one else ever saw it. Franklin Roosevelt was the first president since Jefferson to quote Paine by name, in a wartime radio address that included Paine’s famous “These are the times that try men’s souls” passage. Even President Reagan in his turn was able to quote Paine, but the radicals on the left are the ones who always admired Paine’s convictions. A key story here is about the communist Howard Fast, who in 1943 published the historical novel _Citizen Tom Paine_. Paine was thus drawn into the witch hunts, and when Fast was summoned before Congress and refused to name names, he was put into jail in 1950. His book was removed from the public school libraries of New York City, and J. Edgar Hoover sent agents to major libraries instructing them to remove and destroy Fast’s works. It was the sort of oppression Paine would have recognized and abhorred. Kaye’s book successfully charts the development of Paine’s ideas during his life, and the utility and appropriations of his ideas even into our own times.

 

[end review by Hardy here]

 

You may be able to read some of the book on

 

http://www.amazon.com/Thomas-Paine-Promise-America-Harvey/dp/080908970X#reader

 

Some of this is also interesting and informative (from the editors who are flogging Kaye´s book!)

 

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Kaye offers a masterful and eloquent study of the man he reestablishes as the key figure in the American Revolution and the radical politics that followed it. Focusing on close readings of Paine’s major writings, Kaye devotes the first half of the book to Paine’s role in the seething fervor for American liberty and independence and his influence on the French Revolution. In Common Sense (1763), which sold 150,000 copies in just a few months, Paine advocated self-government and democracy in the colonies, accused the British of corruption and tyranny, and urged “Americans” to rebel. He championed representative democracy and argued that government should act for the public good. Paine’s contributions were not limited to his own time; Kaye traces Paine’s influence on American rebels and reformers from William Lloyd Garrison and Elizabeth Cady Stanton to Emma Goldman and Eugene Debs in the second half of his book. In 1980, Ronald Reagan quoted him—”We have it in our power to begin the world over again”—in his acceptance speech before the Republican National Convention. As historian Kaye (The American Radical) points out, Paine—”the greatest radical of a radical age”—would have been surprised to learn that conservatives, whose values he opposed, had used his words in their cause. 25 illus. not seen by PW. (Aug.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist
Facing a saturated market for biographies of Thomas Paine, historian Kaye opts to chronicle the effect of his legacy. Reading like a roll call of populists, reformers, and radicals, Kaye’s presentation aims to repossess Paine from conservatives who “do not–and truly cannot–embrace him and his arguments.” Kaye’s audience may measure the assertion against the preliminary passages of this work, which outline Paine’s life and paraphrase his revolutionary classics (Common Sense, The American Crisis, and The Age of Reason). Underscoring Paine’s championing of exceptionalism, the idea of America’s uniqueness in world history (which has conservative roots in Puritanism as well as in the radicalism espoused by Paine and preferred by Kaye), the author recounts Paine revivals that have coincided with reform movements. For a universalistic reach beyond a movement’s immediate aims, Paine has been ready-made, and Kaye summarizes how Paine has inspired abolitionists, suffragettes, workingmen, socialists of the Progressive and New Deal eras, and historians. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review
“Harvey Kaye’s lucid work helps create the free citizen’s memorial to Thomas Paine, who is still shamefully unacknowledged.” — Christopher Hitchens

“Kaye [demonstrates] how much the resurrection of Paine could still do for America’s flagging radical imagination.” — Todd Gitlin

“Kaye rediscovers Thomas Paine’s central place in an American radical tradition and reminds us how Paine’s words still resonate today.” — Eric Foner, Columbia University

“Nearly as lively and feisty as its subject. Readers of all political persuasions will find this book of compelling interest.” — Wilfred M. McClay, SunTrust Chair of Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and author of The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America

“Readers of all political persuasions will find this book compelling, and will find it harder henceforth to deny Paine’s importance.” — Wilfred M. McClay, SunTrust Chair of Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and author of The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America.

“Stirs the heart, moves the mind and routs the demon of despair. The best political book of the year!” — Bill Moyers

“[Kaye] demonstrates how much the resurrection of Paine could still do for America’s flagging radical imagination.” — Todd Gitlin, author of The Intellectuals and the Flag

Review

“The moment I finished this book (at four in the morning) I couldn’t wait to call Harvey Kaye and leave a message that I was suing him for inducing insomnia. I couldn’t put the thing down! The story of Thomas Paine–then and now, for the man and his ideas are very much alive today–stirs the heart, moves the mind and routs the demon of despair. The best political book of the year!” –Bill Moyers

 

“Thomas Paine has at last found a worthy defender in Harvey Kaye, a gifted historian whose account of Paine is nearly as lively and feisty as its subject. Readers of all political persuasions will find this book of compelling interest, and will find it much harder henceforth to deny Paine’s importance–not only in his own time, but in the entire sweep of American history.” –Wilfred M. McClay, SunTrust Chair of Humanities at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, and author of The Masterless: Self and Society in Modern America

 

“If the rights of man are to be upheld in a dark time, we shall require an age of reason. Harvey Kaye’s lucid work helps create the free citizen’s memorial to Thomas Paine, who is still shamefully unacknowledged by the democratic republic that he lived and died to bring about.” –Christopher Hitchens

 

 

“For two centuries, Americans have fought for possession of Tom Paine’s soul at least as vigorously as our ancestors fought over his literal bones. Harvey Kaye tells the tale well, and a revelatory tale it is. Along the way, he demonstrates how much, in this time that tries men’s and women’s souls, the resurrection of Paine could still do for America’s flagging radical imagination.” –Todd Gitlin, author of The Intellectuals and the Flag 

 

 

“In this stunning portrait of Tom Paine and his legacy across the political  spectrum, Harvey J. Kaye recovers ‘common sense’ for our own time. This is a major contribution to understanding the American promise of freedom, equality, and the revolutionary tradition.” –Eileen Boris, Hull Professor of Women’s Studies, University of California, Santa Barbara

 

 

“In this fascinating study, Harvey Kaye rediscovers Thomas Paine’s central place in an American radical tradition stretching from the Revolution to the present, and reminds us how Paine’s words still resonate in American society today.” –Eric Foner, Columbia University

 

 

“Harvey Kaye provides a radical eighteenth-century founder for Americans in the Twenty-First Century. Moreover, Kaye convincingly shows that for two hundred years Americans have not only constantly read and quoted Tom Paine, but also, in their repeated invocations of him, kept the radicalism of their great political experiment forever alive.” –Isaac Kramnick, Professor of Government at Cornell University

 

“Harvey J. Kaye has given us the Tom Paine that Americans urgently need, a fearless, rabble-rousing radical who hugely advanced the cause of freedom. Scrupulously researched, wonderfully written, Thomas Paine and the Promise of America is a book that has found its time.” –Paul Buhle, Brown University and co-editor, The Encyclopedia of the American Left

Product Description
America’s unfinished revolutionThe revolutionary spirit that runs through American history and whose founding father and greatest advocate was Thomas Paine is fiercely traced in Thomas Paine and the Promise of America. Showing how Paine turned Americans into radicals–and how we have remained radicals at heart ever since–Harvey J. Kaye presents the nation’s democratic story with wit, subtlety, and, above all, passion.

Paine was one of the most remarkable political writers of the modern world and the greatest radical of a radical age. Through writings like Common Sense–and words such as “The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth,” “We have it in our power to begin the world over again,” and “These are the times that try men’s souls”–he not only turned America’s colonial rebellion into a revolutionary war but, as Kaye demonstrates, articulated an American identity charged with exceptional purpose and promise.

Beginning with Paine’s life and ideas and following their vigorous influence through to our own day, Thomas Paine and the Promise of America reveals how, while the powers that be repeatedly sought to suppress, defame, and most recently co-opt Paine’s memory, generations of radical and liberal Americans turned to Paine for inspiration as they endeavored to expand American freedom, equality, and democracy.

From the Inside Flap
The revolutionary spirit that runs throughout American history and whose founding father and greatest advocate was Thomas Paine is fiercely traced in THOMAS PAINE AND THE PROMISE OF AMERICA. Showing how Paine turned Americans into radicals—and how we have remained radicals at heart ever since—Harvey J. Kaye presents the nation’s democratic story with wit, subtlety, and, above all, passion.

Paine was one of the most remarkable political writers of the modern world and the greatest radical of a radical age. Through writings like Common Sense—and words such as “The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth, ” “We have it in our power to begin the world over again,” and “These are the times that try men’s souls”—he not only turned America’s colonial rebellion into a revolutionary war but, as Kaye demonstrates, articulated an American identity charged with exceptional purpose and promise.

Beginning with Paine’s life and ideas and following their vigorous influence through to our own day, Thomas Paine and the Promise of America reveals how, while the powers that be repeatedly sought to suppress, defame, and most recently co-opt Paine’s memory, generations of radical and liberal Americans turned to Paine for inspiration as they endeavored to expand American freedom, equality, and democracy.

About the Author
Harvey J. Kaye is the Ben & Joyce Rosenberg Professor of Social Change and Development at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay . An award-winning author and editor, his numerous books include Are We Good Citizens? and The American Radical.

 

 

FINAL POINT

I have a strong feeling that Paine is most important in the present situation where Obama following on from Bush is making an alliance with reactionary Islam, also the Vatican is thrown into the mix, and that this will be the guts of the so called “New World order”, a word that conjures up conspiracy nuts by the zillion. By the way these conspiracy nuts always lead back to blaming everything on the Jews, in our epoch this means on Israel. These conspiracy nuts thus bring in all kinds of subjects like Nostradamus and essentially their job is to keep people from understanding reality. What it all calls to my mind is the mad monk Rasputin who became the “spiritual” advisor of the Empress in the months leading up to October 1917.

On a different level I also think that Paine was probable taken up by Stalinists and fake socialists. But the truth will not be there.

 

Anyway if readers can do any reading on Paine I feel it is worth while.

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