Let’s remember and salute the great Thomas Paine, father of our American identity, on his birthday. Born on January 29th, 1737, this British-American expatriate, a former entrepreneur and corset-maker, became one of the pre-eminent political and humanist writers in the Enlightenment tradition. He wrote brilliantly in language readily understood by readers from all walks of life yet long studied by and widely influential to scholars and other authors, from wildly popular pamphlets which the case for American independence from Britain, to books and short works centered on his John Locke-inspired conception of human rights. He argued for the primacy of reason in epistemology, politics, science, and theology. Paine is a primary influence in my own concept of America as ever a work-in-progress bastion of liberty, of reason, of freedom of conscience, of the idea that the establishment of property rights entails the obligation to share the wealth with those who lack what they need to live.
Here are a few links to some articles and works of art by, about, and inspired by Thomas Paine, including some of my own work:
Common Sense – Thomas Paine (1776)
The American Crisis – Thomas Paine (1776-83)
The Rights of Man – Thomas Paine (1791)
The Age of Reason – Thomas Paine (1794)
Agrarian Justice – Thomas Paine (1795-96)
Thomas Paine – from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
To Paris, France I Go, In Search of Revolution-Era Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson – history of ideas travel series in which I follow Thomas Paine’s life and ideas in the era of the French Revolution
Thomas Paine on Basic Income, and Why Welfare is Compatible with an Individualist Theory of Human Rights – my essay on how Paine’s ideas about property rights led him to advocate the unconditional allocation of public funds for the support of the young, the old, and the disabled
Pretty Pink Rose – David Bowie and Adrian Belew (1990) – ‘She tore down Paris on the tail of Tom Paine, but the left wing’s broken, the right’s insane’
As I Went Out One Morning – Bob Dylan (1968) ‘As I went out one morning to breathe the air around Tom Paine’s, I spied the fairest damsel that ever did walk in chains’
Tom Paine’s Bones – Graham Moore (1995) Recorded by Dick Gaughan in 2001. ‘Well they say I preached revolution but let me say in my defence, all I did wherever I went was to talk a lot of Common Sense’
*A version of this piece was previously published at Ordinary Philosophy
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