Happy Birthday, Thomas Paine!

Statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum, 1938, Parc Montsouris, Paris, photo 2015 by Amy Cools

Statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum, 1938, Parc Montsouris, Paris, photo 2015 by Amy Cools

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

~ Ordinary Philosophy is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Any support you can offer will be deeply appreciated!

Photobook: Thomas Paine Artifacts at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, England

Thomas Paine display at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, England, 2018 Amy Cools

Thomas Paine display at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, England.

Paine’s death mask at the People’s History Museum. As you can see, this great thinker and writer was also a rather homely man.

Thomas Paine’s writing table. As the People’s History Museum website explains, ‘The table actually belonged to Thomas Clio Rickman who lived at number 7 Upper Marylebone Street, London and whom Paine stayed with in 1792 before fleeing to France following the publication of The Rights of Man. Rickman would proudly show his visitors the table, now sanctified by his plaque…’

Plaque on the Paine writing table at the People’s History Museum

Lock of Thomas Paine’s hair in a snuffbox

Placard for the Thomas Paine display at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, England

Thomas Paine display placard at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, England, 2018 Amy Cools

Another Paine display placard at the People’s History Museum, Manchester, England

~ Ordinary Philosophy is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Any support you can offer will be deeply appreciated!

Happy Birthday, Thomas Paine!

Statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum, 1938, Parc Montsouris, Paris, photo 2015 by Amy Cools

Statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum, 1938, Parc Montsouris, Paris, photo 2015 by Amy Cools

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, former entrepreneur, and corset-maker’s pamphlets made the case for American independence from Britain, outlined his Lockean conception of human rights, and argued for the primacy of reason in epistemology, politics, science, and theology. He’s a primary influence in my own concept of America as a work-in-progress bastion of liberty, of reason, of freedom of conscience, of the idea that property rights entail the obligation to share the wealth with those who lack what they need.

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’

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Happy Birthday, Thomas Paine!

Statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum, 1938, Parc Montsouris, Paris, photo 2015 by Amy Cools

Statue of Thomas Paine by Gutzon Borglum, 1938, Parc Montsouris, Paris, photo 2015 by Amy Cools

Let’s remember and salute the great Thomas Paine, father of our American identity, on his birthday. Born on January 29th, 1737, his great pamphlets made the case for American independence from Britain, outlined his Lockean conception of human rights, and argued for the primacy of reason in epistemology, politics, science, and theology. He’s a primary influence in my own concept of America as a bastion of liberty, of reason, of freedom of conscience, of the idea that property rights entail the obligation to share our wealth with those who lack what they need.

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’

Ordinary Philosophy and its Traveling Philosophy / History of Ideas series is a labor of love and ad-free, supported by patrons and readers like you. Please offer your support today!

Second Day in Paris Following Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson, Part 2

At Passage Des Petits Peres and Place Des Petites Peres

Monday, August 10th, 2015, continued

…From the Opera Comique (formerly Theatre des Italiens), I head south towards the Seine and past the Bourse (a center of commerce) to White’s Hotel, Hôtel d’Angleterre in French, also called the Hôtel de Philadelphie at that time, perhaps because of the French admiration for the new American experiment in self-government centered in Philadelphia. Mary Wollstonecraft, initially a little depressed and lonely at the house on rue Meslay, began to meet with a group of expatriates who gathered and dined here at 7 Passage des Petits Pères, just off the square in front of Basilique Notre-Dame des Victoires.

The Square In Front of Notre Dame Des Victoires at Place Des Petites Peres, Paris, France

One of these expatriates was our man Thomas Paine, who lived here intermittently in 1792 and 1793. I don’t find a building with this address on it, though it appears it would have been to the left hand side of east-west entrance to the Galerie Victoire, at the end of the passage farther from the basilica. Paine finished the first part of The Age of Reason here, where he moved again after his stay at the mansion farmhouse on rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis. He smuggled the manuscript to his friend, diplomat and poet Joel Barlow (who I mentioned in my previous Thomas Jefferson series), for safekeeping at the time of his arrest in December of 1793, in hopes that Barlow could have it published while he was imprisoned.

The Colonnade Behind the Palais Royal, Paris, France

The next site I visit is the Palais Royal, just down the way towards the river. Thomas Jefferson visited the Palais Royal on August 6th, 1786 and other occasions (it’s especially easy to track the movements of Jefferson, being a prolific letter writer and meticulous record keeper). The Palais was a public shopping, entertainment, arts, and business center, originally the home of Cardinal Richelieu for whom the street that runs parallel to it is named, then expanded and updated by the Dukes d’Orleans. It was known for attracting revolutionaries, dissidents, writers, Freemasons, and prostitutes. I approach it from the back garden area, enclosed and crisscrossed by collonades in a classical style, a later addition that Jefferson would certainly have approved of. It’s a lovely shady spot to rest in on this hot day.

The Courtyard Behind the Palais Royal

I continue on towards the Seine and pass through the front courtyard of the Louvre, where the main entrance and the famous glass pyramid is. Thomas Paine visited the Louvre several times some years before the dangerous period of the French Revolution.

A view of the Louvre with the glass pyramid, Paris, France

After the American Revolutionary War ended, he found himself without an active cause to support, and turned to science, one of his other main interests. He was elected into the American Philosophical Society in 1785, founded by his great friend and mentor Benjamin Franklin (I write about my visit to the APS headquarters in an earlier piece), which was an illustrious company of scientists, inventors, and other innovators in various fields. Paine had been inspired, during his previous visit to Paris in 1780 to help negotiate a loan for the American revolutionary cause, by a design proposal for a new type of pier-less iron bridge; the usual materials used at the time were wood and stone. He thought he could improve the design, and spent about a year working it out and creating a detailed model with a craftsman named John Hall. When it was finished, he was disappointed to find that no one was willing to fund the building of such a bridge in Philadelphia or anywhere else in America; it was just too expensive and risky an undertaking when just about everyone with means found their resources strained by war debt.

A view of the Musée du Louvre

So Thomas Paine went to Paris again in 1787 for a time to present his plans for the iron bridge to the Academie des Sciences of France, which met here in the Louvre until the 1790’s. Perhaps the French, who had so lavishly supported the American cause, would like to be the first have such a marvelously inventive new type of bridge over the Seine, surely they could use one more in such a busy riverside metropolis.

The Obelisk at Place de la Concord, Paris, France

I walk along the Tulieries gardens in front of the Louvre (more on this place in a later piece, since it has significance for my visit, but there’s something I’d like to confirm first), headed for the Place de la Concorde. In June of 1793, Mary Wollstonecraft moved to Neilly-sur-Seine, west of the city and north of the Bois de Boulonge. She had fallen deeply in love with an adventurer, and as it turned out, womanizer, named Gilbert Imlay. For a person who described herself as so wedded to reason, she was prone to allow her emotions to overwhelm her when it came to love, and no one would do but exciting yet unsuitable men who broke her heart every time. Imlay was one of these, and she went to Neilly-sur-Seine both to escape the deadly excesses that the French Revolution was falling into, and to pursue her love affair in private. Imlay remained in Paris, but they would pass back and forth to visit one another.

She would enter Paris through a gate at the Place de Louis Quinze, now called the Place de la Concorde. She described, on one occasion, slipping in the blood of executed victims of the Terror as she passed through the gate, as a well-used guillotine was set up here. Like Paine, the Revolution broke her heart: it was so full of promise, yet here its leaders were, becoming the oppressors they had professed to hate.

Side view of the building where Hôtel de Langeac once stood, on the Avenue Des Champs-Elysees, Paris, France

Next, I head east along the Champs-Élysées, where Thomas Jefferson finally settled down in the autumn of 1785. He lived here at the Hôtel de Langeac until he returned to America in September 1789. It’s right on the corner of Champs-Élysées and Rue de Berri, in the new quarter named Faubourg du Roule that Louis XV had built. He had moved from place to place in his first year here in Paris, renting rooms, staying with friends, and remodeling the Hotel Taitbout to suit his tastes. He changed his mind about living there, however, since it was so expensive, and he had already spent a quarter of his yearly budget on the place. Jefferson habitually lived far beyond his means, and American Congress, having little power to tax, did not regularly pay expenses of its ministers.

An entrance to the building where Hôtel de Langeac once stood. Thomas Jefferson lived here, on the Avenue Des Champs-Elysees

Plaque on the wall where Hôtel de Langeac, former residence of Thomas Jefferson, once stood

So, Jefferson sold up and moved to the Hôtel de Langeac. It turned out to be a perfect compromise between his love of culture and its refinements, and his moral preference for rural living. At that time, it was on the outer edges of Paris, halfway between the bustle of the city and the peace of the Bois (woods) de Boulogne, which he visited nearly every day. Horseback riding was among his favorite forms of exercise, and he could let the horse really go in this natural setting. Now, however, the full bustle of Paris has enveloped Hôtel de Langeac’s street corner and beyond. As I was absorbed in finding a good angle to photograph the building, I was startled to realize that some of the honking and shouting I was hearing in the background was aimed at me: turns out I was standing right in the driveway of a subterranean parking garage, which lets out right in the middle of a wide sidewalk. Oops.

At this point, I’m regretting the pace at which I toured the city today. My knees ache terribly, especially the right one, and I’m disappointed in myself. I’m an avid hiker and consider myself an able and enthusiastic walker, but today’s tour did me in. Then I remember: I had just been sitting for hours sleeping with my legs all twisted up in the cramped space in front of my airplane seat, so my knees had likely been strained. Next time, I’ll pace myself appropriately. In the meantime, I buy a tall can of Hoegaarden (a favorite ‘easy beer’) and some snacks, and sit by the Seine writing notes under a shade tree; it’s a lovely way to rest. I recover a bit, then stroll some more through the Latin Quarter. It’s touristy to the nth degree. I wish I could have seen it decades ago when it was still bohemian and more interesting, but I do appreciate seeing so many people out on holiday having a good time.

Street view of the Pantheon of Paris

I pass by at the Pantheon, which so inspired Thomas Jefferson, in the early evening, after I had resumed my stroll but paused my historical explorations, simply wandering wherever street, garden, or structure beckoned. At this hour, it’s closed to the public.

I consider where to go next: I’ll be meeting up with my husband at Gare du Nord tomorrow morning, so I need to get out the house in good time. He’s flying in with his fellow randonneurs and his bike and cycling gear to ride Paris-Brest-Paris, a 1200-kilometer cycling event that’s been put on every four years for over a century. Before the big ride, we’re taking a detour to Berlin to visit family for a few days, then I’ll see him off on his ride and return to Paris. I’ll be returning to the Pantheon then for a real visit, and to continue my adventures following Thomas Paine, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Thomas Jefferson.

Stay tuned!…  >>> Third Day 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Sources and inspiration:

Adams, William Howard. The Paris Years of Thomas Jefferson. New Haven/London: Yale University Press, 1997.

Bell, David. ‘5 Myths About the French Revolution‘, New York Post, Jul 9th, 2015.

French Revolution.’ Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia., Jul. 17 2015.

Gordon, Lyndall. Vindication:  A Life of Mary WollstonecraftNew York: Harper Collins, 2006.

Jacobs, Diane. Her Own Woman: The Life of Mary Wollstonecraft. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2001.

Jacoby, Susan. Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism. New York: Owl Books, 2004.

Nelson, Craig. Thomas Paine: Enlightenment, Revolution, and the Birth of Modern Nations. New York: Viking Penguin, 2006.

Palais-Royal‘, Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.

Todd, Janet. Mary Wollstonecraft: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Columbia University Press, 2000

Tomalin, Claire. The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft. London: Weidenfield & Nicholson, 1974.

Williamson, Audrey. Thomas Paine: His Life, Work, and Times. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1973.