“There’s no real memorial to him in his country of birth. There’s no day that honors him. He’s not taught in schools. There’s no real memorial to him in his country of adoption tough he is really the unofficial founding father and, undoubtedly, the moral author of the Declaration of Independence” – Christopher Hitchens in Triumvirate of Rationalism
Thomas Paine is an incredibly illusive figure in history, and yet he was the emancipator of thought, philosophy, and liberty. Very little is known about him save that he was a corset maker until he took up the even sexier career of a political writer – and in the process made history. His two bestselling pamphlets Common Sense and the Rights of Man brought revolution out of the hands of Monarchs and Priests and into the hands and minds of the common man. It was in those conveniently short pamphlets that Paine was able to gather support for the American and French Revolutions – and ultimately, across the world. The idea that rights belong to every man was a rare ideal. At the time, there was an iron grip on rights by the Kings and a monopoly on morality by the Church. It was a common insult to Democracy to equate it to the “mob rule” or a barbarian frenzy. But Paine brought it to everyone. Rights come from a time before Priests and Kings – they are inherent and innate.
In France, Paine correctly pointed out that feudalism is over now – it wasn’t just the king or queen that was overthrown, but rather the hereditary principle in France that has been destroyed. These “predatory governments” can only be beaten by the fellow man – because it is only in the hearts of the patriot that rights can truly be asserted. Even in the 1700’s, philosophy was reserved for the elite to be revered by the poor – so there were very few thought provoking philosophers available for the common man. The two that were, continually butting heads. John Locke and Thomas Hobbes argued about whether there were rights and where they came from, how they came to be and to whom they applied. This discussion, though known, was something of a private discussion. Paine smashed that private discussion and made it available to all. It was the other way a true grassroots movement could be formed – And it resulted in the two greatest revolutions in history.
Simply put, the concept of rights was monopolized by the theologians and church philosophers. It was the Catholic Church who fought any sort of knowledge spreading by banning translations of the Bible and even killed heretics for interpreting it incorrectly. One thinks of Blaise Pascal’s wager against thought, “God is or He is not. But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide on nothing here.” Not only does reason have no bearing to religion and thought, but you should simply believe in god because the punishment is so severe, you might as well believe. Any suspension of reason is pure brain rot – and the common man’s place in the argument void.
It was Thomas Paine who, so appropriately stated, “The world is my country, my mind is my church, and my religion is to do good”. This was the end goal of the revolution – and what a milestone! Thomas Paine is truly the original emancipator of man.