This month marks two events in Thomas Paine’s life. Firstly, on January 29, 1737, Thomas Paine was born. Quite a few years later, on January 10, 1776, Common Sense was published. I am ashamed to say that I knew very little about Thomas Paine before I started this week’s page. I was aware that he was some sort of governmental philosopher (no funny quotes there) and that he was generally the source of many quotes that people tended to ask about. I suspected that he was the man who said, “These are the times that try men’s souls,” but I knew little else of the man.
I don’t know what to think of this figure. On one hand, he seems to be a great American Patriot. The thoughts and ideas visited in Common Sense are the kind of fodder that I was taught from a very young age. On the other, he seems to be a master of propaganda. Common Sense tends to decide for the reader what is the only way for America to go. He went so far as to state at the beginning of the section “Of the present ability of America, with some miscellaneous reflexions” that it was inevitable that America separate with England without any argument otherwise. The act of naming the pamphlet Common Sense was in itself a propaganda-type move.
Maybe I distrust this figure because he is the origin of a governmental system in which I have little trust. His suggestions of representation merely infuriate me because I am a Democrat living in a state that has voted Republican ever since I could vote. I have no voice in my home state, no matter how many committees I join or how many flyers I hand out. I feel as though my third grade teacher lied to me when she said that there should be no taxation without representation, because I am not represented. Until I resolve my issue with the present governmental system, I doubt I will be able to make a decision on Thomas Paine.
Until then, enjoy these famous (and not so famous, but true) quotes from Thomas Paine.
Introduction and quote compilation by Laura S. Moncur, Staff Writer.
- “A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right.”
- Common Sense, 1776, Introduction
- Rights of Man and Common Sense Hardcover – Two of the most influential pamphlets written by Thomas Paine. They are available online through other avenues, but I’m fully convinced that every library should have a copy of these.
- Thomas Paine : Collected Writings Hardcover – Or if you prefer, this selection contains almost all of his work. It includes Common Sense, The Crisis, Rights of Man, The Age of Reason, and other pamphlets, articles, and letters. 906 pages of philosophy from the American and French Revolutions.
- Thomas Paine Videocassette VHS Tape by Carl Shapiro – Originally aired on Cable TV, this 40 minute video discusses Thomas Paine’s works and life.
- Biography of Thomas Paine – A concise biography of his life by Benni Leemhuis. Although it tends to idolize him a bit, all the facts are listed.