Thomas Paine: The Author Ahead of His Time
History presents an abundance of cases where people who have made an immense contribution to a cause were rejected by their contemporaries because of a simple misunderstanding of the entire scale of the perfect. Such a fate befell on one of the great people, Thomas Paine, the smartest man, a fighter for truth and justice. Having been at the peak of his glory for a short term, at the end of his life, he was subjected to ‘exile’, both morally and physically, contrary to all the results he had actually achieved. Nevertheless, first of all, it is noteworthy to figure out who Thomas Payne was and why he can, without doubt, be called the greatest Founding Father of the United States. Thomas Paine, an Englishman by birth, was born in 1737 and grew up in the Quaker family. After dropping out of school, he started his labor activity early: first, for his father, then in the tax service, but both times, it turned into a failure for him, and he made a decision to leave his father’s house in 1756. Up to 37 years old, Thomas wandered about various jobs and actually lived in poverty, but luck turned to him when, in 1774 in London, fate brought him to Benjamin Franklin. He advised him to immigrate to Philadelphia and helped Paine in this, accompanying him with a letter of recommendation. In the New World there was a completely different life for him (Strauss 1987).
From that very moment, Paine decided to devote himself to journalism, and in 1775, he became an editor of Pennsylvania Magazine, in which several of his articles were published in the same year, including one on the need to abolish slavery (African Slavery in America) (Hitchens 1987). This article largely influenced the creation of anti-slavery movement in Philadelphia, the member and founder of which, in fact, was Paine. Although the abolitionists, of course, had existed before that, it was with the publication of Paine’s article that the movement became widespread among the American people (Strauss 1987). However, the greatest response from the revolutionary-minded US society, which at that time was noticeably activated in its actions, was called up by Paine’s pamphlet entitled Common Sense. In it, the author severely criticizes the English constitution and the monarchy as such. Investigating the constituent parts of the constitution, he argues that ‘they are the vicious remnants of two ancient tyrannies’ (monarchical tyranny and aristocratic tyranny), and in general concludes that the constitution is nothing more than ‘absurdity’ (Strauss 1987). He urged the people to resort to drastic measures, namely, to launch armed actions against the colonialists. ‘The period of the debate is over. Weapons as the last resort now decide the dispute ‘- that is how decisively and without alternative Paine declares the need for a severe struggle. None of the pamphlets of other authors that came out at the time compares well with Paine’s Common Sense, since all the main ideas reflecting the issue of the earliest secession from England uniquely merged in it, and the rationale for this from all points of view, namely: economic, political, moral, religious one, etc. (Paine 2008) (Dorfman 1938).
The pamphlet ‘scattered’ with incredible speed throughout America. Each of the 500,000 copies published has become literally a reference book in many homes. In addition, it is not surprising, because such a thorough description of all the shortcomings of the existing situation in America firmly convinced the already rising people to struggle, that active action is necessary for the final establishment of an independent democratic republic (Ph.D Tepher 2015). The colonists, inspired by Paine’s pamphlet, swept the wave of patriotism almost straightaway: everyone craved independence. George Washington literally forced reading before the troops of Paine’s proclamation about the creation of the United States, which undoubtedly inspired the army. As a result, in 1776 at the Second Continental Congress of the 13 colonies on July 4, the Declaration of Independence was adopted; it appeared to be the most important historical document of America (which, incidentally, was called ‘the United States of America’ from that moment. (Chumbley and Zonneveld 2009).
Paine himself, who naturally was far from alien to the spirit of the liberation movement, decided to join the ranks of the fighting army. Although he did not excel in his activity as a soldier, but as a direct witness of everything that was happening, Payne wrote 13 proclamations under the general title ‘The American Crisis’. These proclamations were immensely helpful to soldiers who needed support, faith in the righteousness of their cause. In them, the author fiercely defends the idea that England is guilty of many of the misfortunes of America, and calls the American Revolution an undoubted good (Chumbley and Zonneveld 2009) (Hitchens 1987). Paine’s papers made him incredibly famous and, in fact, the second most popular after Washington. After the formation of the United States, he received a high post for his services – he was appointed Secretary of the Committee on Foreign Affairs. In theory, a qualified specialist in this field, and not a publicist, who in essence was Thomas, should occupy such a position of the highest importance. Because of his relative lack of professionalism and lack of skills for such work, Payne made some irreparable mistakes. He was accused of divulging state secrets, and as a result, fired.
He continued his activity in Europe, which he left in the late 80’s. Revolutionary France as it was at that time was close to him in spirit, and with new forces, he began to defend the ideas of the revolution there. Then his book ‘Human Rights’ was published (1791); it was the first paper in history, which expounded the principles of building a democratic society thoroughly. The treatise received approval and enthusiastic reaction from France and America, because it reflected completely innovative ideas for the time: the equality of women, the separation of religion from the state, the abolition of the monarchical order. But trying to promote his ideas in France in the same way as he did in America – persistently, sharply and too straightforwardly – Paine was recognized by the Convention as a ‘hostile alien’ and was arrested in 1793. In conclusion, Paine wrote a great work, ‘The Age of Reason’, which aroused a violent reaction and turned him into an eternal enemy of all the clergy and all believers, since the author rejected all churches, ironically treated the Bible in the book, and that is not all. The number of Paine’s advocates grew smaller and smaller, but there was a hope for release from prison. With the help of the US ambassador, Paine was released, and he went back to the United States of America after almost 15 years of his absence there (Foner 2005).
What was Thomas’s surprise when he discovered for himself a completely different America that was so unlike the revolutionary country that he had once left. His ideas were almost forgotten by the people, and the attitude to him changed radically – now, if in any newspaper they mentioned him, then undoubtedly, next to the words like ‘blasphemer’ and ‘criminal’. Nevertheless, despite all the difficulties he encountered, Paine did not give up and did not abandon the idea of fighting for truth, common sense and democracy. In 1803, Pain’s last work Letters to the Citizens of the United States was published, consisting of 7 (seven) messages to President Jefferson. Their content is amazing as Thomas Paine was actually a hundred years ahead of his time; he was trying to describe the model of an international organization (the prototype of which became the League of Nations and then the UN later), which, in his opinion, was vital for the whole world. However, Paine’s letters were not understood by people and not taken seriously. Therefore, without getting back at least part of the approval that Thomas once used, he was finally forgotten by his contemporaries and died by everyone left on June 8, 1809 (Strauss 1987). Paine was one of the first to make a clear distinction between society and the state by their origin, role and purpose. ‘Our needs and the government create the society by our vices: the first contributes to our happiness, positively uniting our good impulses, the second, negatively, curbing our vices, one encouraging rapprochement, and the other encouraging discord’ (Paine 2008). Then followed the maxims anticipating some judgments of Godwin and Bakunin against the state. ‘Society in any state is good, the government and the best is only the necessary evil, and in the worst case – an unbearable evil … After all, if the dictates of conscience were clear, certain and implicitly performed, then the person would not be needed in any other legislator’ (Paine 2008).
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