Our Belittled Founding Father, by George F. Smith

Thomas Paine gave us one of the greatest opening lines in an essay ever: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” He rallied American revolutionaries to the cause during its darkest hours. He is the author of a monumental book, The Age of Reason. Yet, he died in virtual penury and obscurity, and he gets little recognition today. From George F. Smith at lewrockwell.com:

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) is a figure from our revolutionary past who emerged from obscurity to upset the world with his popular writings.  “He wrote the three top-selling literary works of the eighteenth century, which inspired the American Revolution, issued a historic battle cry for individual rights, and challenged the corrupt power of government churches,”researcher Jim Powell tells us.

After enduring a long illness Paine, 72, died in Greenwich Village, New York City on June 8, 1809.  Though he was known throughout the world his friends, such as they were, were in short supply.  Wikipedia says only “six mourners came to his funeral, two of whom were black, most likely freedmen.”  The free world had abandoned Paine.  Why?

Politically, the US had changed since he published his explosive anti-government pamphlet, Common Sense, in January 1776.  The Federalists, under the intellectual leadership of Alexander Hamilton, were pushing for a United States of England, with all the corruption and taxes that came with it.  Paine, writing during Jefferson’s administration, fired back with a series of articles titled “To the Citizens of the United States and Particularly to the Leaders of the Federal Faction (p. 908).”  Referring to the Federalists as apostates who clung to the word while changing its meaning, Paine wrote that “federalism” now

served as a cloak for treason, a mask for tyranny. Scarcely were they placed in the seat of power and office, than federalism was to be destroyed, and the representative system of government, the pride and glory of America, and the palladium of her liberties, was to be over- thrown and abolished.  [p. 915]

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