Thomas Paine and the Promise of America [NOOK Book]


Thomas 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...
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Thomas Paine and the Promise of America

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Thomas 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 Harvey J. Kaye demonstrates, articulated an American identity charged with exceptional purpose and promise.

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Editorial Reviews

Joseph J. Ellis
Kaye's core argument, however, goes far beyond the claim that Paine was a great journalist. Writing with the passion of a defense attorney whose client has been wrongfully sentenced to obscurity by what he calls a plutocratic phalanx of ''the powerful, propertied, prestigious and pious,'' Kaye contends that Paine, alone among the founding generation, saw to the very heart of the American promise embodied in the principles of 1776. Even more than Thomas Jefferson, whose revolutionary vision was blurred by the stigma of slavery, Paine was a cleareyed radical.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
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 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This provocative book is as much a call to action as a standard biography. Through roughly the first half, Kaye (social change & development, Univ. of Wisconsin, Green Bay; The British Marxist Historians) treads on familiar ground, discussing Paine's profound impact in America and Europe from the 1770s to the 1790s. By the turn of the century, Paine's support of the French Revolution and deistic attacks on established churches made him anathema to many in America. Kaye then charts Paine's subsequent reputation during the 19th and early 20th centuries, when most political, religious, and business leaders condemned him (erroneously) as a drunkard, anarchist, Socialist, and atheist. At the same time, labor organizers, farmers' alliances, abolitionists, civil rights leaders, suffragists, populists, and individuals from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Eugene V. Debs were deeply influenced by him. Last, responding to the current tide of conservatism in politics and religion, Kaye urges readers to revive Paine's fervent espousal of tolerance and social justice. He goes a bit too far in finding Paine's influence in everything "good" that has happened in the past two centuries, but he does a fine job of tracing Paine's impact upon a wide variety of causes. Highly recommended.-T.J. Schaeper, St. Bonaventure Univ., NY Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
How the essence and works of the American Revolution firebrand have been lionized, vilified, largely ignored and strangely reclaimed. Kaye (Social Change, Univ. of Wisonsin, Green Bay) marshals the essential life details of Paine (1737-1809), erstwhile British corset-maker turned privateer and an immigrant to the Colonies on the eve of what he himself would indelibly characterize as "the times that try men's souls." But this is not a towering biography; instead, the author focuses on the impact of Paine's writing, among the most widely circulated printed material both in America and Europe in his day, and on the politics and statesmanship of a revolutionary age. Paine's ability to instantly make enemies was evident even in 1776, when his "Common Sense" pamphlet was rallying the cause for independence; John Adams, for instance, was so opposed to Paine's radical democratic ideas as to openly suggest that the circumstances of the latter's parentage involved a wolf bitch in rut with a wild boar. Unrelenting, however, whenever he perceived a drift toward Federalist concentration of power, Paine even produced material insulting George Washington. But in repudiating Christian scripture with terms like "mythology" in later works, Paine set the all-time negative example for American political figures (including his like-minded friend, Thomas Jefferson) to avoid. With open bias, Kaye laments the fact that Paine spent some two centuries alienated from the mainstream. It was not modern Democrats who rediscovered Paine-the original proponent of limited government, welfare support for the indigent and, yes, even social security-it was Ronald Reagan. Invoking the line from "Common Sense" that "We haveit in our power to begin the world again" at the 1980 Republican Convention, Reagan reinvented Paine for the party, an act the author avers has actually subordinated Paine's ideals. First-rate analysis of original American political thought that has survived deep ecclesiastical enmity.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374707064
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 4/15/2007
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 336
  • File size: 391 KB

Meet the Author

Harvey J. Kaye is the Ben and 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.

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Read an Excerpt

1A FREEBORN BRITONOn January 10, 1776, Common Sense, an unsigned forty-seven-page pamphlet, appeared in Philadelphia and redefined what the American colonists were fighting for. A conflict over taxes, parliamentary authority, and the place of the colonies in the British Empire became a war for independence, a struggle to create a democratic republic, and the fundamental act in the making of an American nation-state and a new age of human history.Looking back, the American Revolution seems to have been inevitable. In the wake of Britain’s triumph in the Seven Years’ War (1756-63)—known in America as the French and Indian Wars—the British government had sought to secure its empire and more firmly assert dominion over its American colonies. Parliament enacted a string of revenue-raising laws and regulations, including the Sugar Act, Stamp Act, Quartering Act, Declaratory Act, and Townshend Acts. But Americans, rejecting Parliament’s right to legislate for them, resisted. They decried tyranny, demonstrated in the streets, and organized boycotts and movements such as the nonimportation associations and Sons of Liberty. Their defiance made each ensuing British initiative essentially unworkable. Yet repeatedly, after repealing its latest law or tax, Parliament imposed a new one, instigating fresh protests. Confrontations occasionally turned violent, as in the Boston Massacre of 1770. Resistance escalated. Bostonians staged their Tea Party in December 1773. And Britain reacted with the Coercive or Intolerable Acts. A Continental Congress convened in September 1774, and in April 1775 armed conflict broke out at Lexington and Concord. By the time a Second Continental Congress established an American army under George Washington, resistance had become rebellion, rebellion became revolution, and in July 1776 the thirteen colonies became the United States of America.Yet neither the Americans who would remain loyal to Britain, nor those who would lead the patriot cause, had initially envisioned revolution. Even as Americans defied the British government’s authority, they voiced fealty to the Crown, appreciation for Britain’s constitution, attachment to the empire, and pride in being British. They protested—and felt empowered if not compelled to protest—because they were Britons, possessed, they believed, of the rights of freeborn Britons.The imperial political climate soon changed, yet Americans’ sense of identity did not. The Boston jurist James Otis insisted, “Every British subject born on the continent of America … is entitled to all the natural, essential, inherent and inseparable rights of our fellow subjects in Great Britain.” Thus, he averred, Americans could not be “taxed without their own consent.” Willing to challenge the legitimacy of the government’s actions, Otis would still conclude: “We love, esteem, and reverence our mother country, and adore our King.” Not one American in a hundred, he claimed, “does not think himself under the best national civil institution in the world.” Similarly, Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey, who would later sign the Declaration of Independence, avowed, “Are we not one nation and one people? We in America are in all respects Englishmen, notwithstanding that the Atlantic rolls in waves between us and the throne to which we all owe our allegiance.”1Even the Boston radical Joseph Warren, who would die just a few months later at Bunker Hill, maintained that “an independence on Great Britain is not our aim. No, our wish is, that Britain and the Colonies may like oak and ivy, grow and increase in strength together.” As late as November 1775 Thomas Jefferson wrote that “there is not in the British Empire a man who more cordially loves a union with Great Britain than I do.” And George Washington continued to toast George III at dinners with his officers.2Common Sense changed all that. Proffering a vision of free people governing themselves, it rhetorically turned the world upside down, making the discourse of the day before sound irrelevant. Almost six months were to pass before Congress would act in favor of separation, yet Americans no longer argued about the colonial relationship, the authority of Parliament, and their rights as British subjects. Rather, they debated a break with Britain, the formation of new governments, and what it meant to be an American.Common Sense shocked people and drove many of them to reaffirm their British ties. Yet it inspired many more to declare for independence. In a letter to the Pennsylvania Evening Post, a Connecticut reader communicated his gratitude to the unidentified pamphleteer, writing, “Your production may justly be compared to a land-flood that sweeps all before it. We were blind, but on reading these enlightening words the scales have fallen from our eyes.” A Marylander wrote, “If you know the author of Common Sense tell him he has done wonders,” and a New Yorker declared, “This animated piece dispels, with irresistible energy, the prejudice of the mind against the doctrine of independence, and pours in upon it such an inundation of light and truth, as will produce an instantaneous and marvellous change in the temper—in the views and feelings of an American.” Representing New Hampshire in the Continental Congress, Josiah Bartlett noted that Common Sense was “greedily bought up and read by all ranks of people.” And George Washington informed his secretary Colonel Joseph Reed that it was “working a powerful change there in the minds of men.”3Noting that “I can hardly refrain from adoring him. He deserves a statue of Gold,” a Rhode Islander impatiently inquired, “Who is the author of Common Sense?” And having earlier confessed to her husband John that she was “charmed by the Sentiments of Common Sense,” Abigail Adams similarly asked, “Who is the writer … ?”4Though only a very few actually knew the name of the author, many imagined they did. General Horatio Gates wrote his comrade General Charles Lee: “Common Sense—it is an excellent performance—I think our friend Franklin has been principally concern’d in the Composition.”5 Others nominated the likes of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Samuel Adams. In spite of how the pamphlet differed fundamentally in content, language, and tone from all hitherto published pieces, almost everyone assumed a leading figure of the American political elite had written it, presumably a radical member of Congress. But they assumed wrongly.The man who wrote Common Sense was Thomas Paine, an unknown, recently arrived thirty-nine-year-old English immigrant of working-class background. Anything but elite, Paine’s life and career before coming to America had included corsetmaking, privateering, tax collecting, preaching, teaching, labor campaigning, and shopkeeping, punctuated by bouts of poverty, the loss of two wives, political defeat, business bankruptcy, and dismissal from government service (twice).Had they known all that, Americans might have responded differently. But perhaps only an Englishman such as Paine could have disabused Americans of their lingering affections for Britain. Perhaps only an immigrant could have convinced them of their own grand possibilities. And perhaps only an artisan could have propelled them to take radical-democratic action. In turn, perhaps only America and its people could have made Paine a revolutionary and caused him to write, “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

Paine was born January 29, 1737, in Thetford, England, to Joseph Pain and his wife, the former Frances Cocke. Joseph was eleven years younger than Frances. But more significant were their class and religious differences. Joseph was a corsetmaker and a Quaker. Frances, the daughter of a prominent local lawyer, was an Anglican. And early on young Thomas Paine would become sensitive to inequality and the possibility of reversals.6The England in which Paine grew up seemed orderly and stable compared with the England of the past. In the 1640s a civil war between the Crown and Parliament had culminated in the beheading of the king, the abolition of the monarchy, the House of Lords, and the Church of England, and the establishment of a Puritan-dominated republic or “Commonwealth.” A wider revolution also threatened when popular political and religious movements took seriously the parliamentarians’ oratory about the “rights of freeborn Englishmen” and called for a more egalitarian and democratic Albion. Levellers demanded political equality and manhood suffrage. Diggers called for sharing the land and set about collectively occupying parcels of it. Ranters denied sin and hell and spoke of liberation and free love. And Baptists and Quakers challenged traditional Christian hierarchy and authority. The radicals were suppressed and the republic itself collapsed, but their struggles and dreams still made the propertied nervous and the common folk troublesome.While kingship, lords, and church were restored in 1660, in 1688 the Glorious Revolution refashioned the Crown as a constitutional monarchy and initiated the ascendance of the Whig oligarchy, a ruling class of landed aristocrats and London financial interests. Governing in the name of preserving Englishmen’s “ancient liberties,” the Whigs promoted the interests of property and Anglican Protestantism while limiting royal and churchly absolutism. The Tory opposition venerated the monarchy and the church, yet it was no less eager to protect property and those who owned it. And in any case Whigs and Tories alike viewed the spoils of offices and titles—status, income, and influence—as ultimately more important than principles. In 1714 the originally German Hanoverians replaced the originally Scottish Stuarts on the throne, but the Whig regime persisted.Orderly and stable, England was not static. Its rulers undertook or oversaw new kinds of revolution—the forging of a nation-state, the building of an overseas empire, the development of capitalism and industry—and transformed the country into the world’s foremost military and commercial power. They would not go unchallenged, but in almost every instance they would prevail. With Wales already incorporated and Ireland conquered, they tied Scotland to England by the 1707 Act of Union, creating “one united kingdom of Great Britain.” Thereafter they enlarged the empire, especially in North America and the Caribbean. And the British people expected they would extend it still further.Hanoverian England differed from the absolute monarchies and seigneurial lands of contemporary Europe. The English toasted their own uniqueness and boasted not just of their military and commercial prowess but also of their “liberties,” by which—along with “security of property”—they had in mind:
Freedom from absolutism … freedom from arbitrary arrest, trial by jury, equality before the law, the freedom of home from arbitrary entrance and search, some limited liberty of thought, of speech and of conscience, the vicarious participation in liberty … afforded by the right of parliamentary opposition and by elections and election tumults … as well as freedom to travel, trade, and sell one’s own labour.7
Furthermore, although only Anglican men of property had full civil and political rights—most significantly, voting, holding public office, and attending university—the Toleration Act of 1689 accorded freedom of worship to Protestant Dissenters.Meanwhile, inequalities intensified. The Whigs continued to control Parliament, the Lords by inheritance and the Commons by patronage. Many towns had no representation, and men without property, or at least an annual income of £40, were excluded from the franchise. At best only one out of every five Englishmen could vote.Capitalism advanced. Aristocrats and gentry enclosed fields previously available for common uses, dispossessed smallholders, and carried on the “primitive accumulation of capital” that financed Britain’s Industrial Revolution. Merchants and shop owners abandoned customary methods of regulating commerce and labor. And political economy superseded the traditional moral economy, subjecting people to the vagaries of the market and creating a growing class of poor, propertyless workers.A new political revolution never threatened, but English working people believed they had a right to express their grievances and regularly did so through swift communal actions directed against property and its symbols, giving them the reputation of an “ungovernable people.” Still, England’s governors managed their power and authority resolutely. When necessary they resorted to force. More often they secured their rule through other means. Nationalism and Protestantism played significant roles, but “the law” served as the foremost vehicle for controlling the common folk. “Liberty” and “property” became England’s watchwords, and the most potent fiction was that all freeborn English were equal before the law. While the law set limits to the ambitions and predations of the powerful, it was crafted to instill respect for authority and the sanctity of property in those who possessed neither. Failing respect, fear would suffice. The number of offenses punishable by death—which included the most minor of crimes, such as petty theft—increased from 50 to 250 in the course of the eighteenth century. Neither age nor sex disqualified one from hanging.Situated seventy-five miles northeast of London, Thetford was a market town of two thousand people. Dominated by the wealthy Duke of Grafton and his family, the local economy remained agricultural, yet it included a diverse community of artisans, to which Paine’s father belonged. Beneath the artisans the laboring poor struggled to make a living and, further down the social scale, a swelling number of paupers struggled to survive.Blatant displays of the nation’s inequalities, criminal court sessions were held in Thetford every March, during which time the town’s population ballooned and routine life gave way to a bizarre carnival of theatricals, amusements, trials, verdicts, and executions. Most of those sentenced to hang had been convicted of stealing and, overwhelmingly, were of the lower classes. Gallows Hill itself could be seen from the Paine home, and its grisly images must have made a lasting impression on the young Thomas.Paine’s own family made him skeptical of authority, both political and religious. Joseph’s brethren in the Society of Friends had ostracized him for marrying Frances Cocke in a Church of England ceremony. But he never ceased to consider himself a Quaker, and he imbued his son with Quaker ideas and values. A “tolerated” religious minority, the Quakers were still looked upon with suspicion and had yet to achieve civil and political equality. They rejected the formalization of religion and priestly authority, refused to pay tithes, practiced pacifism, and called upon men and women to discover the “divine spark” with which God had endowed them. Seeing one another as brothers and sisters, they also felt responsible for one another’s welfare and took care of the poorer members of their communities themselves. Though never truly a Quaker (for he was no pacifist), the mature Thomas would often identify himself as one and—impressed by their lives—he would oppose hierarchies, support freedom of worship and separation of church and state, and advocate public ways of addressing poverty.While Paine’s father instilled Quaker values, his mother raised him in the church, making sure he learned the Bible and Anglican catechism. Yet years later Paine would claim that even as he memorized lengthy passages of scripture, he began to have serious doubts about Christianity. He wrote that a sermon on “redemption by the death of the Son of God” had “revolted” him: “it was making God Almighty act like a passionate man who killed His son when he could not revenge Himself in any other way, and as I was sure a man would be hanged who did such a thing, I could not see for what purpose they preached such sermons.” And convinced that God was “too good” to “do such an action,” Paine came to believe that “any system of religion that has anything in it that shocks the mind of a child cannot be a true system.”8With financial assistance from an aunt, Paine’s parents enrolled him in Thetford Grammar School. He most liked science and poetry, both of which became lifetime avocations. In particular, he relished the works of Shakespeare and the seventeenth-century writers John Milton and John Bunyan (which no doubt nourished his later political and religious radicalism). Though the school offered Latin, his father forbade him from learning it, for as a Quaker Joseph believed that Latin, the official language of states and churches, functioned to obscure the exercise of authority from the people. And the ban probably served Paine well, for it later helped to keep him from fancifying his prose and alienating working people.Like many English boys, Paine “ached to go to sea,” but his parents had other plans for him. On his turning thirteen, they withdrew him from school and apprenticed him to his father to learn corsetmaking or, as it was also called, staymaking, for it entailed the making of whalebone stays for the woolen-cloth corsets of upper-class women. Laborious work, it demanded skill, concentration, and endurance. But Paine learned more than a craft in his father’s workshop. Likely Joseph also filled their many hours together with Quaker historical memories of the revolutionary 1640s and 1650s.9Thetford presented a declining market for corsetmakers, compelling the younger Paine to leave for London in 1756 to work as a journeyman. Yet even the capital’s opportunities and excitements did not satisfy him. Twice he enlisted for service aboard a privateer. The first time his father dissuaded him, probably saving his life, for the ship onto which Paine had signed suffered horrific losses. The second time he sailed.Nineteen years old, healthy, strong, and skilled, Paine joined the crew of the King of Prussia in January 1757. Commissioned by the Crown to capture or, if necessary, sink enemy vessels, the captain and crew of a privateer were entitled to keep the seized vessels’ contents and divvy up the money garnered at auction. We don’t know exactly what motivated Paine to sign up. Adventure, patriotism, and profit were equally powerful recruiters. But there were also powerful disincentives. Disease and death stalked the ships, and life at sea mirrored the oppression and exploitation of the larger world. Whatever actually led him to sail, he would learn a great deal, both about seamanship and about life, for the tides and currents of the Atlantic carried not only dangers and threats but also many a radical notion. Paine later admiringly recalled the comradeship of his fellow seamen—usually a multinational or even multiracial lot—and how experienced sailors took it upon themselves to “instruct the landmen in the common work of the ship.” He also must have found impressive their bravery, egalitarianism, solidarity, and defiant stance before the elements, the enemy, and when their sense of fairness and justice was violated, their own officers.10During the eight months Paine spent “between the devil and the deep blue sea,” the King of Prussia pursued several successful engagements. Still, after it was over Paine did not sign on for a second cruise. A veteran of naval combat but sound, whole, and £30 richer (a small fortune for someone of his age and background), he left the ship in late summer and returned to London, keen to learn and to make something more of himself.Eighteenth-century Britain was the “birthplace of the modern.” Even the French philosophes envied the nation’s advances in politics, letters, and science. “To enlighten” became the great metaphor of the age, and at the heart of Britain’s empire and Enlightenment stood its capital, London, a metropolis of six hundred thousand. Its streets and shops teemed with diverse peoples and goods, and its expanding middle and artisan classes supported a thriving culture of theaters, debating clubs, periodicals, booksellers, and lectures. Paine immersed himself in it. He passed hours in the bookshops and avidly attended talks on an array of scientific subjects. His favorite lecturers—such as the spectacle maker and mathematician Benjamin Martin and the painter and astronomer James Ferguson (both of whom he befriended) —were most often self-taught, skilled artisans. And also like Paine, those who frequented their presentations were usually lower-middle-class Dissenters eager for self-improvement.11Paine’s new comrades questioned the order of the universe and the order of society. Clearly shaping Paine’s own views, the natural philosophy of Sir Isaac Newton emerged as the foremost current of thought. Newtonians held that God the Creator had provided a “natural order” to the universe, the laws of which could be discovered and progressively applied through scientific inquiry and reason. They also supposed that such laws governed the social world and that knowledge of them could guide the reform of political and social life.Paine always said he had little interest in politics as a young man. But the contradictions he encountered in the capital—the rich getting richer and proud talk of English liberties even as working people and the poor suffered destitution and state violence—apparently made deep impressions. And in London’s artisan-intellectual community he became not only more aware of middle- and lower-class resentment of aristocratic privilege but also quite familiar with the radical ideas of the day, including the republican-inspired arguments of the “Real Whigs” and the liberal philosophy of John Locke. The former, nostalgic for the seventeenth-century commonwealth, yet worshipful of the supposedly balanced government of King, Lords, and Commons, decried the Crown’s and its ministers’ patronage system, abuses of power, and the corruption of Britain’s constitution and liberties. The latter, while stressing the sanctity of property, discounted divine right in favor of natural rights and proposed that in the “social compact” between the king and his subjects, legitimacy sprang from consent and the people retained the right to rebel against unlawful or oppressive authority.12In these circles, Paine also became attuned to the latest thinking in logic and communication, which was undergoing drastic revision in light of the scientific revolution. The new theory of rhetoric—which Paine would so effectively employ—rejected the traditional preference for flowery and elegant style over substance as well as the traditional equation of grandiloquence and eloquence. Instead, it advocated “drawing arguments directly from the facts of the case” and urged speakers and writers to cultivate simplicity, brevity, and “plainness of style.”13Yet Paine could afford to remain a “student” for only so long, and in 1758 he finally moved to Sandwich to set up shop as a master staymaker. Though he may already have become a religious skeptic, he also involved himself in the local Methodist movement and occasionally preached at its gatherings, experiences that surely encouraged his emergent belief in the potential of the common people and shaped his own rhetorical verbal skills. Begun by the brothers John and Charles Wesley as a mission to reinvigorate the Christian spirit of the common people and bring them back into the church, Methodism—which would eventually become an alternative to both Anglicanism and Calvinism—was growing rapidly in the mid-eighteenth century, especially among the lower classes, for it offered hope of redemption during an age of mounting insecurities. Affirming that every individual could be saved, it proclaimed that salvation depended on individual choice and action and that to be a good Christian one not only had to discover God but also do good works and tend to the welfare of others. Methodism clearly demanded self-discipline, however, built around congregations, it also afforded community, mutual assistance, and opportunities for self-governance. And by promoting Bible study, it also advanced reading, writing, and public speaking among the otherwise illiterate and voiceless, including women.14It may well have been at a Methodist gathering that Paine met his first love, Mary Lambert, a young woman who worked as a maid in the home of a prominent local family. Courting in the spring and summer of 1759, they married in the autumn and soon afterward Mary became pregnant. But the couple’s happiness did not last long, for Paine’s business failed and both Mary and the baby died in childbirth. In ensuing years Paine would speak little of his losses. Yet he would forever despise regimes that accepted poverty as part of the natural order of things, and he developed a special sympathy for women and the subordination they suffered.15Returning to Thetford alone and penniless, Paine looked into government employment as an excise officer (the occupation of Mary’s late father), and by way of family contacts in the Duke of Grafton’s household, he received tutoring for the entrance exams and influential help in overcoming the bureaucratic hurdles. His first appointment came in 1762, and two years later he was promoted to a station officer’s post on the North Sea coast, where, in addition to his regular tasks, he had the dangerous duty of watching out for smuggling activity by patrolling the shore on horseback. He enjoyed the job but was dismissed in the summer of 1765, specifically for “stamping” goods he had not actually inspected (a not uncommon practice, given the low wages, heavy duties, and unpopularity of excisemen).Unwilling to accept his fate and believing he had suffered a grave injustice, Paine returned to London and with the requisite humility and deference petitioned the Excise Commission for reinstatement. In fact, he may have been innocent. His supervisor, William Swallow, may actually have framed Paine in an attempt to cover up his own corruption, for the Excise Commission discharged Swallow only weeks after Paine. It is even possible that Paine knew of Swallow’s dirty dealing but given the system of authority felt incapable of doing anything about it.16Whatever the case, Paine was reinstated. And yet unable to immediately secure a new posting, he was forced to eke out a bare living by teaching in schools for working-class children. Still, the delay in London allowed him to renew his friendships in the city’s intellectual community, which fortuitously led to his meeting the renowned American writer and scientist Benjamin Franklin.Living again in London also afforded Paine further lessons in British popular politics, for economic depression in the 1760s had fomented a wave of industrial disputes and crowd actions, including rallies in support of John Wilkes. A member of Parliament and the publisher of the North Briton, Wilkes was being prosecuted—or as many thought, persecuted—by the government for printing “seditious libel against George III and his ministers.” A wit and a scoundrel, Wilkes had no reservations about exploiting popular sympathies. Nevertheless, those who took to the streets shouting “Wilkes and Liberty!” saw his case as an ominous example of government menacing the rights of a freeborn Englishman. Paine could not have failed to notice working people’s nascent radicalism.17Finally, in 1768 the Excise Commission assigned Paine to Lewes, on the Sussex coast. Not only did the posting promise to rescue him from dire poverty, but its location must have seemed inviting. A town of four thousand people, Lewes had several Dissenting churches and was known for its republican political tradition. Arriving there, Paine soon found residence with Samuel Ollive, a tobacconist and local constable, who took an immediate liking to his new lodger. Self-assured and sociable, Paine himself happily joined in community life, winning election to the town council and serving on a local Church of England committee responsible for supervising the disbursement of the parish taxes and aid to the poor.In Lewes, as well, Paine enthusiastically participated in the Headstrong Club, a drinking, dining, and discussion group that met regularly at the local White Hart. Here he began to openly express his political views and soon gained a reputation as a superb debater. A lifelong friend, Thomas Clio Rickman would later recall that Paine was “at this time a Whig, and notorious for that quality which has been defined perseverance in a good cause and obstinacy in a bad one. He was tenacious of his opinions, which were bold, acute, and independent, and which he maintained with ardour, elegance, and argument.” And—though Paine himself would always insist that he had published nothing before coming to America—he may have taken to penning articles under pseudonyms. He definitely composed pieces for the Headstrong entourage, one of which, “The Trial of Farmer Shorter’s Dog Porter,” satirically challenged the prevailing power structure and belief in the inevitability of gross social inequalities.18In July 1769 Samuel Ollive died, and at his widow’s invitation Paine took over the tobacco shop. Also with her encouragement, he drew closer to the Ollives’ daughter Elizabeth. And in March 1771—apparently motivated by friendship more than by love—he married her. The marriage would not last.Increasingly resentful of their impoverished circumstances, excise officers in the Sussex area banded together in 1772 to formally request a salary boost from Parliament, and given his rising reputation as a wordsmith, they commissioned Paine to write their petition. Accepting the task, he carefully prepared The Case of the Officers of Excise. While clearly presenting the needs of the men and their families, Paine did not yet demonstrate his extraordinary literary skills. But he began to reveal feelings and thoughts that would become all the more evident in and critical to his later works, such as a disdain for excessive wealth, a compassion for the poor, and a recognition of the critical connection between affluence and distress.19Almost every one of the nation’s excise officers signed on to the effort and paid a small subscription to send Paine to London, where he spent the winter months of 1772–73 lobbying Parliament. In the end, however, his mission accomplished nothing material. Making it all the worse, his long absence from Lewes cost Paine everything. The shop failed for lack of attention, the Excise Commission sacked him for abandoning his post, and his marriage collapsed.With nothing left in Lewes, Paine cleared up his affairs and returned to the capital. The only obvious good that had come from his winter-long campaign—other than a sobering immersion in British politics—was that it afforded him a chance to reconnect with Franklin, who was now the official representative of the rebellious colonies. And in the late summer of 1774, Paine sought him out to talk about America. Hearing of Paine’s defeat and debacle, the elder Franklin readily sympathized, for he too had recently suffered public abuse from King George’s government on account of actions pursued in favor of those he represented. Not surprisingly, he encouraged Paine to emigrate and promised him a note of introduction.That September Paine departed for America, outfitted with Franklin’s letter. Directed to Franklin’s son-in-law, Richard Bache, an insurance underwriter in Philadelphia, and to Franklin’s son, William, then Royal Governor of New Jersey, it read:
The bearer, Mr. Thomas Pain, is very well recommended to me as an ingenious worthy young man … If you can put him in a way of obtaining employment as a clerk, or assistant tutor in a school, or assistant surveyor (of all of which I think him very capable) so that he may procure a subsistence at least, til he can make acquaintance and obtain a knowledge of the country you will do well and much oblige your affectionate father.
Though Franklin did not express great expectations, he no doubt hoped Paine could somehow serve the American cause. Paine had suffered a series of failures and scandals, but he had acquired skills and knowledge, tested his courage and intellect, made friends and contacts, and developed an intolerance of hypocrisy, injustice, and inequality along with a budding sense of working people’s political potential. Whatever Franklin actually expected, he would in time take great pride in having played a pivotal role in Paine’s coming to America, referring to Paine as his “adopted political son.” As Paine prepared to cross the Atlantic, however, neither man suspected the revolutionary consequences of Paine’s encounter with America.20

Britain’s American colonies were flourishing, dynamic, rambunctious, and rebellious. The colonial economy had soared to two-fifths the size of Britain’s. The total population had grown rapidly, reaching almost three million. And though the vast majority lived in the countryside—with many colonists looking westward for new opportunities—Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Charleston had become prosperous and relatively sophisticated regional capitals.British imperial controls did give the colonies some political cohesiveness, but as Franklin had observed, real unity seemed out of the question, for the thirteen provinces “are not only under different governors, but have different forms of government, different laws, different interests, and some of them different religious persuasions and different manners.”21Moreover, waves of immigrants made America ever more diverse, as Scots, Scots-Irish, Irish, Welsh, Germans, Dutch, French, Swedes, and enslaved Africans joined English colonists and American Indians. And ethnic diversity brought religious diversity, as Lutherans, Calvinists, Mennonites, and Moravians—as well as smaller numbers of Catholics and Jews—joined Anglicans, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Baptists, and Quakers. In fact, by the 1770s two-thirds of the white population belonged to the Dissenting tradition (though many of them, to no church in particular), and while religious toleration varied from colony to colony, the Church of England never secured the authority it held at home (not even in the southern colonies, where it was the officially established church) and a midcentury wave of revivalism, a first “Great Awakening,” made pluralism and enthusiasm all the more characteristic of American spiritual life.At the same time both Evangelical Protestantism and Enlightenment thought shaped colonial culture, and though these two intellectual traditions competed for hearts, minds, and souls, they were not necessarily antithetical. Both strove to “remove barriers to sight” and “bring light out of darkness.” Both rejected “inherited wisdom as the basis of knowledge” and encouraged the questioning of—if not resistance to—authority: “New Light” Congregationalists versus “Old” in New England; “New Side” Presbyterians versus “Old” in the middle colonies; Presbyterians, Baptists, and Methodists versus the Anglican establishment in Virginia; Reason versus Tradition among the “enlightened.” And both optimistically anticipated great transformations ordained by Providence.Like their British cousins, colonials celebrated their liberties—arguably, they had even more reason to do so—and the lower classes, even if excluded from high political debate, effectively registered their own views and set limits to the power of the governing classes through the British tradition of crowd actions. Still, socially and politically, America differed significantly from Britain. As much as rich gentlemen “lorded it” over others on both sides of the Atlantic, actual aristocrats were a rare breed in the colonies. Though class inequality was widening, colonists generally lived materially better than the average Briton, and far fewer of them suffered real poverty. And while the same franchise qualifications applied as in Britain, the colonies were far more democratic places. More than half of all the white men possessed sufficient property to vote; they governed themselves through elected assemblies (subject to the veto power of royal governors); and they enjoyed the freest press of the eighteenth century.Nevertheless, as exceptional as America seemed, fundamental inequalities structured colonial life—and as much as the colonials prided themselves on their liberties, their economies depended upon denying freedom to others. All women, regardless of class and marital status, suffered patriarchal restrictions and political exclusion. Poor immigrants gained passage to America by subjecting themselves to several years of indentured servitude, a “much harsher, more brutal, and more humiliating status than it was in England.” And even more cruelly, a vicious trade brought Africans to America to work as slaves, with their numbers totaling half a million by the 1770s. (The vast majority of them toiled in the southern colonies, where they represented 30 percent of the population in Maryland, 40 percent in Virginia, and the actual majority in South Carolina.)22While colonists may have assumed the inevitability, if not legitimacy, of such hierarchies and practices, social tensions and antagonisms intensified. Servants and slaves alike made their masters nervous with their persistent rebelliousness. And—determined to resist European territorial expansion as best they could—American Indian peoples living in the interior to the west added all the more to the colonists’ worries.Class inequality and contentiousness characterized relations among free white colonials as well. Unhappy reminders of Britain, landlordism, and tenantry spread in the colonial countryside. Frontier families felt especially threatened by the propertied of the coastal cities—feelings exacerbated in certain places by religious differences. And in the 1760s armed rural conflicts broke out in the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and Vermont.Upper and lower classes confronted each other in the cities as well. Wealthy merchants—upon whose transactions practically every other class depended—made their fortunes on transatlantic commerce and, together with southern planters and northern landlords, constituted provincial ruling elites that dominated colonial assemblies. And somewhat beneath but closely connected to them stood an intellectual elite of lawyers and prominent Protestant clergy.The urban majority, however, was made up of the working classes—artisans and laborers. The master artisans or “mechanics” had their own shops and hired journeymen and apprentices. Literate and often interested in science and public affairs, they aspired to material independence and community respect gained through hard work, sobriety, thrift, and self-improvement. And yet as much as they stressed individual initiative and responsibility, they readily bonded together in clubs and mutual aid societies and did not hesitate to stand up collectively to authority and seek a greater role in determining colonial developments. Meanwhile, propertyless laborers—sailors, dockworkers, hired servants, and the unskilled—increased in number, well aware that they lacked the rights of the propertied and that the rich grew richer.Rural and urban gentry alike looked down upon and viewed the working classes with scorn. Though their personal attitudes would change somewhat by the 1770s, planter George Washington had referred to smallholding farmers as the “grazing multitude,” lawyer John Adams had spoken of working people as “the common Herd of Mankind,” and New York attorney and businessman Gouverneur Morris had described them as “poor reptiles.” Naturally, farmers and workers saw themselves otherwise, and their rising sense of injustice and readiness to express it made colonial elites not only disdainful but also anxious.23Not all white colonials were British, or even of British descent, but they shared a sense of “Britishness”—most fundamentally the belief that their “liberties” distinguished them from other peoples—and that identity bound them to the empire. Their distance from Britain may even have made the colonials fonder subjects than the British themselves. And yet in the wake of Britain’s greatest eighteenth-century triumph, the very demands of the British Empire would wear at the colonists’ ties to it.Victory over France in the Seven Years’ War exhausted the British treasury and forced the government to raise taxes and seek additional sources of income. Given the circumstances, it seemed only logical to George III and his successive ministers in Parliament that colonists should bear the costs of colonial security. But the colonists disagreed, feeling they had already paid for British supremacy in North America with their blood. Nevertheless, the government enacted fresh taxes and new schemes to more effectively regulate commerce to Britain’s advantage. And, to reduce defense costs and protect the Indians, it laid down the Proclamation Line of 1763, an official boundary to restrict western expansion. In doing so, it instigated a series of imperial crises and accomplished what the colonists on their own could not have achieved, uniting them in rebellion.More than a matter of paying taxes, the fight between the government and the colonists had to do with the “right” of the former to tax the latter. The government presumed that the constitution authorized Parliament to make laws for the colonies in all cases whatsoever (for all freeborn Britons were understood to be virtually “represented,” whether or not they actually voted for members of the Commons). But the colonials presumed otherwise, believing that Parliament had violated their rights by legislating for them without their consent—or as it would forever be remembered, “No taxation without representation!”Still—quite crucially—the rebellion was directed against the government and Parliament, not the king and the constitution. Notably, in the Anglo-American mind George III stood above the crimes perpetrated by his ministers and—even though Real Whig and Lockean ideas had greater followings in America than in Britain—colonial leaders refrained from advocating republicanism and the end of monarchy. Citing the prosecution of Wilkes and other “ministerial schemes,” American Whigs condemned the government as tyrannical and corrupt and voiced alarm that its tyranny and corruption might spread to America. Some even accused it of planning to “enslave” America. But sincerely or pragmatically, they continued to celebrate the constitution, and whether it was because of attachment to the Crown, the poor record of ancient and modern republics, or republicanism’s democratic implications, limited monarchy remained the publicly favored form of government—with Loyalists vehemently calling to account those who spoke otherwise.By 1775 the constitutional fight between the government and the colonists had reached a stalemate. But stalemates do not necessarily give way to revolutions. So long as Americans continued to think and operate in terms of King, Constitution, and Mother Country, they would remain British subjects.Moreover, as much as rebellion was in the air, even radical American Whigs worried about rousing the ever-attentive and already-agitated working classes. Yet their very own words were serving to refashion Whig theory. Whereas the Real Whigs saw “the people” serving vigilantly as a “check on governmental power,” American radicals began to speak of “the people” as the real source of power, and of the “active consent of the governed” as “the only true foundation of government.” Tapping into popular inclinations, the latter’s arguments had the effect of further licensing working people to harass officials, enforce boycotts, occasionally riot, and even press for more democratic polities. As the historian Carl Becker once put it, the question of “home rule” increasingly entailed the question of “who should rule at home.”24In time the radicals would come to appreciate that popular mobilization strengthened their own hand; but hearing nervous complaints about “anarchy” amid the cries against British tyranny, they also knew that “the people” required deft handling. In June 1775 merchant Elbridge Gerry reported to his fellow Continental Congressmen that in Massachusetts “the people are fully possessed of their dignity from the frequent delineation of their rights, which have been published to defeat the ministerial party in their attempt to impress them with high notions of government. They now feel rather too much their own importance, and it requires great skill to produce such subordination as is necessary.”25

Paine landed in Philadelphia on November 30, 1774. The voyage had been awful. Typhus had struck down passengers and crew alike, and Paine himself had to be carried ashore on a stretcher and spend several weeks recuperating. But he was fortunate, and not just for having survived the journey. In contrast to most of his fellow passengers, he came as a free man.26Once recovered, Paine explored his new home and met with Richard Bache, who promised to help him find employment and introduce him to the city’s leading figures. Heavily involved in the triangular trade of the Atlantic world, Philadelphia had emerged as British North America’s largest city, busiest port, and unofficial capital. Its prosperity and diversity impressed Paine immensely. Founded by Quaker William Penn, the Pennsylvania colony served as a haven for the Society of Friends and clearly reflected its heritage. Philadelphia’s population of thirty thousand included native and immigrant English Quakers, Anglicans and Catholics, German Lutherans and Mennonites, Scotch-Irish Presbyterians, and Jews. And the city sustained a remarkable assortment of periodicals, debating clubs, booksellers, and scientific lectures.As he had in London, Paine was soon browsing the bookstores, and in one of them he found not only good reading but also an unexpected opportunity. The owner, Robert Aitken, on inquiring about his interests and hearing of his literary efforts, asked to see some of his work. Paine gladly returned the next day with samples. After looking through them—and perhaps aware of Paine’s association with Franklin—Aitken surprised Paine by offering him the editorship of The Pennsylvania Magazine, a periodical Aitken planned to copublish with John Witherspoon, the president of the College of New Jersey (later renamed Princeton).Philadelphia’s political scene thrilled Paine. Only weeks before his arrival in the city, the First Continental Congress had resolved to ban the import and consumption of British goods (as well as the export of selected American goods) and to create a Continental Association to institute the ban, all of which had led to the formation of enforcement committees throughout the colonies. In Philadelphia itself, where the merchant elite had long controlled commercial and public affairs, Paine actually witnessed something of a “mechanics’ revolution.” Artisans—Paine’s own people—had not only militantly supported the boycott but also, in alliance with the city’s radicals, run their own slate of political candidates and successfully challenged merchants for control of the Committee of Observation and Inspection. At the same time, poorer mechanics and laborers also became politically active. Having enlisted in Philadelphia’s militia, they created their own Committee of Privates, through which they demanded the right both to elect their own officers and, regardless of their incomes, to vote in city elections .27Thirty-eight years old and in America only a few weeks, Paine had a new career as a journalist. In addition to fulfilling his editorial duties, he contributed essays, poems, and scientific reports both to the magazine and to other local periodicals (penned, as was customary, under pseudonyms). And like many a fortunate immigrant before and since, he wrote as if reborn, his words manifesting a phenomenal sense of renewal, elation, and possibility. With England’s poor and his own rough experiences still fresh in his mind, he started to outline a proposal for a system of public assistance. But he decided against publication, probably in view of Americans’ higher living standards and the relative absence of poverty. Indeed, he quickly took to speaking of America in the most exceptional terms. “Degeneracy is here almost a useless word,” he wrote. “Those who are conversant with Europe would be tempted to believe that even the air of the Atlantic disagrees with the constitution of foreign vices; if they survive the voyage, they either expire on their arrival, or linger away in an incurable consumption. There is a happy something which disarms them of all their power both of infection and attraction.” America’s resources, energies, and movements excited and inspired Paine, and he quickly came to believe that America’s future held in store unimaginable greatness. Looking around him, he also spied the real engine of the greatness. “Our happiness will always depend upon ourselves,” he declared, unofficially anointing himself an American as he did so.28But as exultant as America made Paine, its very promise and possibilities compelled him to confront its contradictions. Able to see the Philadelphia slave market through the windows of his lodgings, he was particularly disturbed by the paradox of white indentured servitude and black bondage in the midst of a thriving and liberty-loving people: “That some desperate wretches should be willing to steal and enslave men by violence and murder for gain, is rather lamentable than strange. But that many civilized, nay, Christianized people should approve, and be concerned in the savage practice, is surprising.” Thus, in March 1775 he vigorously called for the abolition of slavery. He chastised those who quoted “sacred scriptures” to defend that “wicked practice”; scolded those who had the audacity to “complain so loudly of [British] attempts to enslave them, while they hold so many hundreds of thousands in slavery” ; and insisted upon America’s responsibility to support the slaves following their emancipation. And when Franklin returned to Philadelphia and established the first American Anti-Slavery Society not long after, Paine became a founding member.29While Paine criticized imperial power, he continued to favor reconciliation between America and Britain—that is, until the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775, which left ninety-five Americans dead or wounded. A few years hence he would look back and recall:
I happened to come to America a few months before the breaking out of hostilities. I found the disposition of the people such, that they might have been led by a thread and governed by a reed. Their suspicion was quick and penetrating, but their attachment to Britain was obstinate, and it was at that time a kind of treason to speak against it. They disliked the ministry, but they esteemed the nation. Their idea of grievance operated without resentment, and their single object was reconciliation … I had no thoughts of independence or of arms. The world could not have persuaded me that I should be either a soldier or an author … But when the country, into which I had just set foot, was set on fire about my ears, it was time to stir. It was time for every man to stir.30
Lexington and Concord made Paine a patriot and a radical. In May he lambasted kingly and lordly arrogance, writing, “When I reflect on the pompous titles bestowed on unworthy men, I feel an indignity that instructs me to despise absurdity. The Honorable plunderer of his country, or the Right Honorable murderer of mankind, create such a contrast of ideas as exhibit a monster rather than a man.” In July, he asserted the legitimacy of violence in defense of liberty, and linking religious freedom and political freedom, he urged mobilization: “As the union between spiritual freedom and political liberty seems nearly inseparable, it is our duty to defend both.”31In September Paine published the song “The Liberty Tree,” the last stanza of which portrayed King and Parliament together attacking American liberty:
But hear, O ye swains (’tis a tale most profane),
How all the tyrannical powers,
Kings, Commons, and Lords, are uniting amain
To cut down this guardian of ours.
From the East to the West blow the trumpet to arms,
Thro’ the land let the sound of it flee:
Let the far and the near all unite with a cheer,
In defense of our Liberty Tree.32
And in October he condemned Britain’s treatment of Africans, Asians, and American Indians and hoped for the most radical consequence of a “divinely-ordained” separation:
Call it independence or what you will, if it is the cause of God and humanity it will go on. And when the Almighty shall have blest us, and made us a people dependent only upon him, then may our first gratitude be shown by an act of continental legislation, which shall put a stop to the importation of Negroes for sale, soften the hard fate of those already here, and in time procure their freedom.33
The Pennsylvania Magazine prospered under Paine’s editorship. Subscriptions increased from six hundred to fifteen hundred, making it the best-selling magazine in America. Paine’s own writings had begun to garner critical attention, and he had met many a Philadelphian. However, his relations with his bosses soured during the summer of 1775, and in early autumn he resigned. He had antagonized Witherspoon by having the audacity to edit Witherspoon’s words, leading Witherspoon to fabricate a rumor that Paine drank heavily, a slur that would follow Paine to the grave and beyond. He did drink (mostly wine and brandy) but not at all to the extent Witherspoon and later adversaries would allege. Simple salary questions divided Paine and Aitken. And yet something more powerful had motivated Paine’s departure. He had resolved to devote all his time to writing a pamphlet in support of the American cause.The Continental Army had engaged British forces. Americans had begun to take charge of their own political affairs. But what exactly was America’s cause? Radicals in the Continental Congress had privately raised the question of independence. However, the majority of delegates would not entertain it. Publicly, even the former continued to deny that they sought separation, suggesting that they intended only to reorganize the imperial relationship. And yet most colonials seemed to think even the latter idea too extreme an aim.Nevertheless, Paine sensed that the time for revolutionary action had arrived. He did not believe that Americans’ pronouncements of affection for King, Constitution, and Mother Country truly represented their sentiments. What he saw and heard convinced him that although Americans did not openly favor either independence or republicanism, they actually yearned for separation and a chance to create a new kind of political order for themselves. America had transformed Paine. He would now transform America.Copyright © 2005 by Harvey J. Kaye
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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2008

    Finest Paine bio and interpretation in print

    Professor Harvey J. Kaye's biographical and interpretive treatment of revolutionary pamphleteer Thomas Paine is the finest work of its kind presently in print. Kaye's treatment of Paine is in two parts: first the most accurate and readable biographical account yet written, and second, a survey of Paine's influences throughout the entire political spectrum from the late nineteenth century up to the date of the book's publication, 1995. Don't be mislead by the obviously ideologically based attack by the anonymous reviewer entitle 'big disappointment.' This is one of the finest works on Paine ever written and Kaye treats the entire range of political references to Paine from the Left to the Right. A pleasure to read,historically accurate, and balanced, Kaye's Tom Paine is no dead, white male and he's not easily pigeon-holed into anyone's political or ideological agenda. In the words of President Andrew Jackson, 'Thomas Paine needs no monument made by hands. He has erected a monument in the hearts of all lovers of liberty.'

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2011

    Good Book

    I enjoyed it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 1, 2009

    A Book To Be Avoided

    This is book is an excellent example of a poorly written, poorly researched and very transparent lobbying effort. The author does not present a history and analysis of Thomas Paine and his writings. He does assert Thomas Paine's greatness, because he is co-opting Thomas Paine to give weight to his own flimsy politics. After telling us how great Paine is, he proceeds to link Marxist and Socialist dogma, wonderful as it is, to Paine and his writings. This book is not history, nor political science, nor journalism, nor worth reading.

    In the introduction of the book the author states that it is his goal to 'take back Thomas Paine for the Left.' The author, a Professor of Social Justice and Democracy, commits grammatical error after writing mistake in his weak attempt to make Thomas Paine a God of Marxism and Socialism.

    Besides deplorable grammar, from a self styled editor no less, he leaves the reader with gaps in the biographical time line, and anachronistic use of terms. While convincing us that he is not qualified to be an editor, he fails to present the evolution of Thomas Paine's writings. The author frequently refers to class warfare, and uses superficial and questionable descriptions of historical figures; such as Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton.

    The author fails to mention all of Thomas Paine's relationships until Paine's death. Apparently, the author does not consider personal relationships of any significance. This may not seem to be critical, but it demonstrates the lack of depth and thoroughness of the author. The author lists Paines occupations, but he thinks nothing of the high rate of Paine's job turn over.

    The author sweeps away 'inconvenient truths,' and presents his opinions as fact. His analysis is lazy, his writing is dull, and his conclusions are wishful thinking. The author fails to establish a sound and thoughtful basis for his interpretation of Paine's writings. The author's perspective is that of a failed and dreamy 1960's radical.

    The book tells us little about Thomas Paine, but it does tell us how fuzzy headed radicals think; liberal us of the word think. My recommendation for anyone looking to buy this book to think twice,and then do not buy it. If one feels compelled to read the book then get a copy from the library, but do not spend your hard earned money on this thing.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2006

    A Big Disapointment

    The author takes liberties with the history of Thomas Paine and claims to know what he was thinking ,what he wanted to do,and what he was going to do. The author glories in the wonders of socialism. The book might as well have been written as a primer for the ACLU

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 24, 2011

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    Posted April 23, 2011

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