by Felix Quigley

October 1, 2009


It is becoming clear that not only has one to understand Tom Paine but one also has to deal with those who write about him but use him for their own reactionary purposes. This is only a beginning stab at this. Paine has been claimed by just a few too many people for his own good.


This is an extract from a red pepper publication


[Begin Red Pepper extract here]

Tom Paine, restless democrat

This June marks the bicentenary of the death of a man who was buried in obscurity but whose ideas are today claimed by everyone from anarchists to neoliberals. Mike Marqusee celebrates the life, work and ideas of the great revolutionary who declared that ‘my country is the world and my religion is to do good’

‘This interment was a scene to affect and to wound any sensible heart. Contemplating who it was, what man it was, that we were committing to an obscure grave on an open and disregarded bit of land, I could not help but feel most acutely.’

The occasion for this lament was the sparsely attended funeral of Thomas Paine, who died 200 years ago, in June 1809, at the age of 72, and was buried in the small farm he owned in what was then the rural hamlet of New Rochelle, 20 miles north of New York City.

Not long before, New Rochelle’s bigwigs had barred Paine from voting, claiming he was not a US citizen. Paine, who had virtually invented the idea of US citizenship, was furious. But this was not the end of his indignities. When he sought a place to be buried, even the Quakers would not oblige him. Hence the muted funeral of the man who had inspired and guided revolutions in north America and France, and equally important, the revolution that did not happen in Britain.


The following is a further extract from this article (details below)


It is interesting in that it throws into the Mix the talkative but reactionary Christopher Hitchens who supported the Imperialist War against Yugoslavia and whjo is also an enemy of Israel.


And it contains a useful paragraph which refers to the fact that while Payne was a deist this was a very revolutionary concept for his period


When Paine returned to the US in 1802, he received a cool welcome. He was now the infamous author of The Age of Reason, an infidel with whom even old allies like his friend in the White House, Thomas Jefferson, were reluctant to associate. Meddlesome Christians urged the sick and dying man to embrace their faith, but were brusquely dismissed. One of his friends facetiously suggested that Paine could resolve his financial worries by publishing a ‘recantation’. The author of The Age of Reason replied, ‘Tom Paine never told a lie’.

In the two centuries since his obscure burial, Paine has been claimed by as many as once disclaimed him. Liberals, Marxists, anarchists, right wing libertarians, American exceptionalists, neoliberals (a passage in Rights of Man reads like a hymn to globalisation). Even New Rochelle finally got around to awarding Paine posthumous citizenship – in 1945.

Recently ‘New Atheists’ such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have staked a claim. Dawkins simply omits the fact that Paine was not an atheist but a deist. Hitchens takes a different route, dismissing Paine’s deism as a halfway house to atheism. What both miss is that Paine’s deism was part and parcel of a sustained challenge to the hierarchies and powers of his day – which cannot be said of their atheism.


The writer of the above was Mike marqusee

Also more columns by Mike Marqusee at

8 June 2009

There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them

Thomas Paine 1737 – 1809 ,


“Father of the American Revolution”,

was the first to propose, with his publication of Common Sense, actual American Independence from a system of Aristocratic Royalty  – 
by suggesting a Democratic Republic for the “United States of America,” a name attributed to him –

with a Unicameral Congress, as adopted by Pennsylvania.  He inspired the Declaration of Independence.



He proposed the Abolition

 of Negro Slavery; proposed

 Arbitration for

International Peace;

 advocated Justice for Women; pointed out the Reality of Human Brotherhood; suggested International Copyright; invented a suspension bridge and smokeless candle; proposed the Education of Children of the Poor at public expense; suggested a Great Republic of All Nations of the world.  He urged the Purchase of the great Louisiana Territory.  He proposed pension payments or Old Age Pensions.  He also suggested protection for dumb animals.  We have honored him when we have adopted these sane propositions.

Tom Paine had a gripping style of writing with daring ideas and daring words.  He served as inspirer of soldiers in retreat. He was a soldier from Pennsylvania at Perth Amboy, NJ and, subsequently, served with General Greene near Fort LEE, NJ.  Paine saw the defeat of the Americans at Fort Washington, NY on “Washington Heights” across the Hudson River from Fort Lee.  He marched through New Jersey, where he began his inspiring writings, CRISIS ..., which George Washington had read before his troops.

Tom Paine had been a friend of Thomas Jefferson – 
and of  “BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, the only signer of four major documents: Declaration of Independence; Treaty of Alliance with France; Treaty of Paris to end the war; and the Constitution“.  

Tom Paine strove to spread the idea of a Republic with Wide Suffrage – in America, England and France, and he even went to a dungeon-jail in France and narrowly missed execution for many of “his” – now “our” courageous beliefs.  

He died in 1809 in
Greenwich Village, NY on Grand Street in relative poverty. 
His bones had been buried near his home in New Rochelle, NY, but ten years later,
the bones were brought to England for a monument to him – which was refused.       
His marked bones are here-and-there . . . thankfully,                                               
                   a search and expensive DNA studies of his relics are slowly being pursued to honor him again.



More from the Neil Brinkley website:


love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death. 


My own line of reasoning is to myself as straight and clear as a ray of light. Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to “bind me in all cases whatsoever” to his absolute will, am I to suffer it? What signifies it to me, whether he who does it is a king or a common man; my countryman or not my countryman; whether it be done by an individual villain, or an army of them? If we reason to the root of things we shall find no difference; neither can any just cause be assigned why we should punish in the one case and pardon in the other. 


Let them call me rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a sottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man. 


I conceive likewise a horrid idea in receiving mercy from a being, who at the last day shall be shrieking to the rocks and mountains to cover him, and fleeing with terror from the orphan, the widow, and the slain of America.


There are cases which cannot be overdone by language, and this is one. There are persons, too, who see not the full extent of the evil which threatens them; they solace themselves with hopes that the enemy, if he succeed, will be merciful. It is the madness of folly, to expect mercy from those who have refused to do justice; and even mercy, where conquest is the object, is only a trick of war; the cunning of the fox is as murderous as the violence of the wolf, and we ought to guard equally against both. 


Howe’s first object is, partly by threats and partly by promises, to terrify or seduce the people to deliver up their arms and receive mercy. The ministry recommended the same plan to Gage, and this is what the tories call making their peace, “a peace which passeth all understanding” indeed! A peace which would be the immediate forerunner of a worse ruin than any we have yet thought of. 


Ye men of Pennsylvania, do reason upon these things! Were the back counties to give up their arms, they would fall an easy prey to the Indians, who are all armed: this perhaps is what some Tories would not be sorry for. Were the home counties to deliver up their arms, they would be exposed to the resentment of the back counties who would then have it in their power to chastise their defection at pleasure. And were any one state to give up its arms, that state must be garrisoned by all Howe’s army of Britons and Hessians to preserve it from the anger of the rest. 


Mutual fear is the principal link in the chain of mutual love, and woe be to that state that breaks the compact. Howe is mercifully inviting you to barbarous destruction, and men must be either rogues or fools that will not see it. I dwell not upon the vapors of imagination; I bring reason to your ears, and, in language as plain as A, B, C, hold up truth to your eyes.


I thank God, that I fear not. I see no real cause for fear. I know our situation well, and can see the way out of it. While our army was collected, Howe dared not risk a battle; and it is no credit to him that he decamped from the White Plains, and waited a mean opportunity to ravage the defenseless Jerseys; but it is great credit to us, that, with a handful of men, we sustained an orderly retreat for near an hundred miles, brought off our ammunition, all our field pieces, the greatest part of our stores, and had four rivers to pass. None can say that our retreat was precipitate, for we were near three weeks in performing it, that the country might have time to come in. Twice we marched back to meet the enemy, and remained out till dark. The sign of fear was not seen in our camp, and had not some of the cowardly and disaffected inhabitants spread false alarms through the country, the Jerseys had never been ravaged. 


Once more we are again collected and collecting; our new army at both ends of the continent is recruiting fast, and we shall be able to open the next campaign with sixty thousand men, well armed and clothed. This is our situation, and who will may know it. 


By perseverance and fortitude we have the prospect of a glorious issue; by cowardice and submission, the sad choice of a variety of evils- a ravaged country- a depopulated city- habitations without safety, and slavery without hope- our homes turned into barracks and bawdy-houses for Hessians, and a future race to provide for, whose fathers we shall doubt of. Look on this picture and weep over it! and if there yet remains one thoughtless wretch who believes it not, let him suffer it unlamented.   


As I read more it becomes more clearer that Paine has got great relevance for today.


The language above is very expressive and it marks the fact that these were men and women who were fighting for a great cause.


This is very much present in the ordinary people of America today, not the media, not the governments, that is the point.               


by Felix Quigley

October 1, 2009



The radio speaker was Joseph Lewis


Thomas Paine and the Age of Reason


This is a really strange piece which was in the form of a radio address made by a Joseph Lewis half a century ago. Lewis was part of a group supporting the memory of Paine.

It is valuable in parts but I notice that Lewis was covering for the system, and he omits to mention that Paine was disgusted by the failure of the American leaders to come to his aid in the French jail, also he omits or does not know that although Lincoln was a big fan of Paine, he met much opposition on that score from I think the equivalent of the State Department, ruling circles anyhow.


[Begin Lewis´s radio address here]


(Address delivered Feb. 17, 1957,
over Radio Station WMIE, Miami Florida)

Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am going to make the most remarkable offer ever made over the radio. This offer is Free. Absolutely Free. No obligations of any kind. It concerns one of the greatest books ever written. A Book that has done more for the emancipation of the human mind from ignorance, and superstition than any other volume in existence. It has been responsible for the education of some of our greatest men. The title of the book is, “The Age of Reason” by Thomas Paine. Do you know who Thomas Paine was? He was born in Thetford, England in 1737. When he was 35 years old he met Benjamin Franklin in a coffee house, in London. Benjamin Franklin sensed something unusual in this “ingenious worthy young man” and gave him a letter of introduction and urged him to go to America. He did.

The wisdom of Benjamin Franklin was never better exemplified than when he recognized the rare ability of Thomas Paine. How fortunate was that meeting.

Thomas Paine landed upon our shores penniless, and like many immigrants he enriched our country. Not only that, but he also made one of the most valuable contributions in behalf of Freedom in the history of mankind.

Shortly after his arrival here he became editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine, and could not help but feel the tyranny under which the people were living. He saw an opportunity that never existed before. He saw an opportunity to establish a new government and wrote the pamphlet “Common Sense.” It electrified the people as no other writing before or since! That pamphlet, “Common Sense” caused the Declaration of Independence to be proclaimed, provoked the Revolutionary Was and was responsible for the establishment of the United States of America.

No wonder Benjamin Franklin took pride in being responsible for Thomas Paine’s contribution to the cause of America’s Independence. He said, “I value myself on the share I had in procuring for America the acquisition of so useful and valuable a citizen.”

In fact, when I made a study of Thomas Paine’s association with the American Revolution, and reread his Common Sense, I was forcibly impressed with the similarity of the writings of this pamphlet and the language of The Declaration of Independence.

I worked for years in further research, and became convinced that Thomas Paine wrote the ORIGINAL draft of that immortal document. I wrote a book to prove my premise, and I am happy to say that this book is now used in the classrooms of many colleges in the United Sates and Europe.

But when the war started and defeat after defeat had been suffered by the Continental Army, it became a grave question as to whether we would be successful in the conflict. This concern was expressed time and again by the Commander-In-Chief of the Army. On more than one occasion, General Washington sent up moans of despair, which culminated in his final gasp of desperation, when he cried, “I think the game pretty well up!”

And now there has just come to public light an hitherto unknown letter which makes us realize the desperation of Washington’s plight. This letter was written to George Mason, one of the leaders of the Revolution. Washington wrote: “We are without money … without provisions … the history of this war is a history of false hopes … our efforts are in vain.”

If the Commander-In-Chief of the Army thought our struggle for Independence was a “false hope,” and that our efforts to achieve Freedom “are in vain,” what must have been the temper of the people in such a hopeless situation. They too had become discouraged, enthusiasm began to wane, many deserted the great Cause, and mutiny had already taken place in the Army.

It was during this time, in the very depths of despair, that General Von Stueben said that pamphlet written by Thomas Paine “would produce a better effect than all the recommendations of Congress, in prose and verse.”

He was right. It did. It began with these immortal words: “These are the times that try men’s souls … ” Paine called it, THE CRISIS. Washington had it read to his soldiers, and I need not tell you what effect it produced. It was on the lips of all the people, and a revolution in sentiment and determination came over the American colonies. They were once more determined that the war for Independence must be won. Whenever the situation became desperate, whenever another defeat was suffered, these words of Paine reverberated throughout the camps:

“These are the times that try men’s souls … He that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Whenever there was a shortage of food, whenever there was insufficient clothing, whenever there were mumblings of discontent, these words suddenly became audible:

“These are the times that try men’s souls … Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.”

Whenever plagued by anxious thoughts of home and farm, the soldier heard these words.:

“These are the times that try men’s souls … The harder the struggle the more glorious the triumph.”

Whenever in moments of loneliness, thinking of wife and child, wondering whether his patriotic devotion to enlist in the Cause was too high a price to pay, he was answered by the gem:

“These are the times that try men’s souls … ” What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: It is dearness only that gives everything its value.”

When fighting seemed never to cease, these words rang out, drowning all despairing thoughts:

“These are the times that try men’s souls … 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.”

Paine’s inspiring words had been mixed with the blood of Washington’s soldiers and never before had such a combination flowed through the arteries of man.

In these Crisis papers, thirteen in all, are to be found not only messages of inspiration, comforting and reassuring words, but sound military advice, valuable suggestions of administration, and equally as important precious knowledge that was so essential for the proper guidance of the people during so serious a time. They also cemented the diverse forces when the country was so dangerously divided.

While words can cheer, while words can inspire, while words can dry eyes wet with sorrow and soothe the heart gripped with fear, words cannot feed you, they cannot clothe you, they cannot protect you from the chills of night, the winter’s blast, the cold of snow, nor can they stay the pangs of hunger. While words can fortify the mind and make the timid courageous, something more practical is needed to meet the realities of life. More than words are needed to plant the food, fell the forests, turn the wheels of machinery, provide transportation for an Army, sustain the soldiers in battle, and achieve victory in the struggle.

Many a genius has been lost because he needed first the wherewithal to feed and clothe his body.

Many a cause has failed because of the lack of the means of achieving it. Thomas Paine combined inspiration with action and deeds. And so at the crucial moment when the Army was without food and clothing and ammunition, Thomas Paine went to France to secure those things which we lacked, and which were so essential to hold our Army together.

His plea to the French Government resulted in a shipload of ammunition, clothing and money.

Such help in such a crisis is beyond the measure of words to tell. Only let it be known that it was Thomas Paine’s efforts which accomplished these results!

No wonder John Adams said, that “History will ascribe the American Revolution to Thomas Paine.”

Through seven long years of this struggle Paine continued his labors, both as a soldier and author until the publication of the thirteenth and last crisis, beginning with these cherished words:

“The times that tried men’s souls are over, and the greatest and completest revolution the world has ever known, gloriously and happily accomplished.”

I have no hesitation in stating emphatically, that if there had been NO Thomas Paine, there would have been no United States of America.

Recently, a prominent citizen of Miami, and a well known writer, Mr. Tom Thursday, referred to Thomas Paine as “Mr. U.S.A.”

In my opinion, this is the most appropriate name ever applied to this great patriot.

When the war was over, Benjamin Franklin said to Paine:

“Where liberty is, that is my country,” and Paine replied, “Where liberty is not, that is mine.”

And so Thomas Paine left these shores for Europe to help establish Republics in England and in France.

When Thomas Paine arrived on French soil he was hailed as the “Symbol of Freedom.”

So great was his fame, that he was elected by four “departments,” that is, four separate constituents, to represent them in the new National Assembly.

Paine wrote the French Declaration of the Rights of Man, a manifesto similar to our own Declaration of Independence.

He also wrote the new Constitution of France, and if the French Deputies had heeded his advice, there would have been no “Reign of Terror.”

Paine wanted the French people to adopt a Constitution as their first order of business, while Robespierre and Murat, and other fanatical leaders of the Revolution, demanded, as the first act of the new government, the death of Louis the sixteenth.

Thomas Paine, with, I believe, some knowledge that it might mean his death, stood up in the National Assembly and made an eloquent plea for the life of the French ruler in the face of a fanaticism that demanded the King’s death. The enraged Assembly, upon the slightest provocation, was ready to tear limb from limb any who dared to interfere with their mad determination, to make the King pay the supreme penalty, because of the accident of birth. Nevertheless, Thomas Paine stood firm and said, “I would rather record a thousand errors, dictated by humanity, than one of severe justice”; and at the conclusion of his impassioned plea, he cried, “Kill the King; but not the man.”

By this act, Thomas Paine not only proved his love for mankind, but gave the world an example of unparalleled courage.

Thomas Paine stood before that hostile convention and pleaded for the life of a man for whom he had no personal regard, and for no other purpose whatever, except to save a life — to prevent an injustice, and to heal the scars of battle with the salve of mercy.

The Bible says what greater act can a man do than lay down his life for his friend. Thomas Paine performed even a greater deed — he faced the ire and fanaticism of blood thirsty tyrants, not to fight for the life of a friend, on the contrary, he fought for one whom he detested and whose office he abhorred.

To Thomas Paine, justice and humanity were above personal safety.

When you consider the circumstances, when you consider Paine’s detestation for monarchy, when you consider Paine’s hatred of tyranny, then it is the inevitable conclusion that this was one of the grandest acts of moral courage ever performed by a single individual. Thomas Paine was ready to die that the principles of just might prevail.

This heroic act of Thomas Paine shall be remembered forever as unequaled in the annals of man’s struggle for Freedom and Justice.

For this sublime deed Thomas Paine was arrested, thrown into prison, and condemned to be guillotined.

Before being taken to the Luxembourg Prison, Paine gave Joel Barlow the manuscript of his book “The Age of Reason,” with the request that if anything should happen go him, Barlow should see to it that the book was published.

On the very first page of the book, Paine wrote: “It has been my intention, for several years, 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 my life … and at a time when the purity of my motives could not admit of a question … ”

However, the book had not been completed, and from all appearances, only the First Part, would ever see the light of publication.

While Paine was in prison, orders had been issued, to mark, with a white cross, the door of the cell of each prisoner, who was to be taken out at daybreak, to be guillotined!

That night, Paine’s cell was extremely hot, and he opened the door to get some air.

Now it happened, that the doors of the prison cells, were so constructed that, when open, or closed, they looked alike.

During the night, when the guards came to mark the doors of the doomed men, they made a white cross on the door of Paine’s cell, while it was open!

Just before daybreak, his cell having cooled off, Paine closed the door. Thus, the white cross was on the inside, which left the outside of his cell door, unmarked!!!

At daybreak, when the guards came to take the prisoners to be guillotined, there being no white cross on the outside of the door of Paine’s cell, they passed him by!!!

Because of this strange coincidence, THOMAS PAINE ESCAPED BEING GUILLOTINED!!! Without the slightest knowledge of what was taking place, Thomas Paine was saved from death!!!

Through the connivance of the detestable Gouverneur Morris, our then Ambassador to France, Paine remained in the Luxembourg Prison for over nine tortuous months.


Fortunately, for the world, Gouverneur Morris was recalled as our Ambassador from France and was replaced by the distinguished James Monroe.

When James Monroe arrived in Paris, he wrote to Paine while still in prison this letter.

“The crime of ingratitude has not yet stained, and I trust never will stain, our national character. You are considered by them as not only having rendered important service in our own revolution, but as being, on a more extended scale, the friend of human rights, and able advocate of public liberty. To the welfare of Thomas Paine, the Americas are not, nor can they be, indifferent …

To liberate you will be the object of my endeavors, as soon as possible.”

After much effort, Ambassador Monroe secured the release of Paine. He took him to his home, and he, and Mrs. Monroe, nursed Paine back to health.

Now it is this world famous book, The Age of Reason, which Thomas Paine finished while in prison, that we want to send to you absolutely free.

But another word concerning Thomas Paine before giving you the details.

Thomas Paine wanted to abolish slavery at the same time that American Independence was won, but the pressure from slave owners was too great to overcome, and so it was left to another man to finish the job. Early in life Abraham Lincoln was inspired by Paine’s writings, particularly his essay advocating the abolition of Negro slavery. Lincoln said, “I never tire of reading Paine.” As a result of Paine’s influence, Abraham Lincoln became the Great Emancipator and saved the Union.

And in view of the statement which I am about to read I think I can rightfully ask — what was the secret of Thomas A. Edison’s greatness? He tells it in his own words. In a letter to me shortly before his death, he wrote:

“I have always regarded Thomas Paine as one of the greatest of all Americans. Never have we had a sounder intelligence in this republic … It was my good fortune to encounter Thomas Paine’s works in my boyhood … it was, indeed, a revelation to me to read that great thinker’s views on political and theological subjects. Paine educated me then about many matters of which I had never before thought. I remember very vividly the flash of enlightenment that shone from Paine’s writings, and I recall thinking at that time, “What a pity these works are not today the schoolbooks for all children!” My interest in Paine was not satisfied by my first reading of his works. I went back to them time and again, just as I have done since my boyhood days.”

These are Mr. Edison’s own words acknowledging his indebtedness to Thomas Paine.

What Thomas Paine did for Abraham Lincoln and Thomas A. Edison, he can do for you!

Through the generosity of a friend who attributes his success in life to the reading of Paine’s works, and who has made a very substantial contribution to The Thomas Paine Foundation, we will send you, absolutely free, as part of an educational campaign, a copy of the complete and unexpurgated edition of this remarkable book “The Age of Reason,” containing 190 pages, beautifully printed and finely bound. It is yours to keep. You will read it and treasure it as have hundreds of thousands of others. In it you too will find inspiration and courage, and who knows, you too may be inspired by its great logic to become another Lincoln or another Edison.

In sending for your copy, we would appreciate your enclosing 10 cents to cover the cost of mailing and handling. This is all you have to do to get your FREE copy of “The Age of Reason.” Address The Thomas Paine Foundation, 370 West 35th street, New York, 1, New York, and simply enclose 10 cents to cover the cost of mailing and handling.

Don’t miss this rare opportunity — as this offer may never be made again!

Thank you for listening. Good night.