The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.
– Thomas Paine
A quick search for Thomas Paine’s birthday related activities reveals that a dedicated cult following is still actively engaged with the legacy of the amazing pro-democracy revolutionary Thomas Paine. Events are scheduled in many cities for Paine’s 281st birthday on Monday.
As an example of the events underway, California hosts the perhaps the United States’ most important center dedicated to Paine’s legacy known as the Thomas Paine Society in the Historic Castle Green of Pasadena. A recent ‘bulletin board’ post at the local newspaper Pasadena Weekly contained an announcement regarding the Thomas Paine Society’s festivities:
This Sunday, the Society celebrates its 25th anniversary with its latest edition of the “Headstrong Evening Club,” hosting an evening of rousing conversation, great food, libations, and fun while recreating Paine’s favorite 18th Century English haunt, the White Hart Inn.
Ian Ruskin will portray Paine, while Weekly columnist Ellen Snortland will guest as Eleanor Roosevelt. Other special surprise guest historical figures will also appear, with musician Harold Payne providing accompaniment throughout the evening. The evening’s topic will be “Income Inequality: Was Thomas Paine’s ‘Agrarian Justice’ a Blueprint for Universal Basic Income?”
Be prepared for an evening of rousing conversation, libations, food and fun. Join the conversation and speak your mind in this audience participation event like no other. Light fare, wine, ale and non-spirited drinks will be available throughout the evening.
More information and tickets for that event may be found at thomaspainesociety.org. Across the pond in Paine’s home country, the one that sentenced him to death in absentia, an event was held at the Working Class Movement Library to mark Thomas Paine’s birthday. The event takes place in the City of Salford, a borough of Greater Manchester, in North West England where Thomas Paine was born. The Working Class Movement Library organized the event with the Mary Quaile Club. Speakers included:
- Trevor Griffith, author of a play about Thomas Paine: ‘These are the Times’
- Michael Herbert, will talk about the celebrations of Thomas Paine’s birthday
- Mandy Vere, from Liverpool’s radical bookshop “News from Nowhere”
In other Paine related news, Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania, recently announced a ‘Renewing Philadelphia’s Historic Streets’ project that will spend a million dollars on the “restoration of Thomas Paine Place in the Society Hill National Register district, including making the historic transportation facility accessible to people with disabilities”.
And finally the big Painist event of 2018 is shaping up to be the ‘Third International Conference of Thomas Paine Studies’ hosted by the Institute for Thomas Paine Studies on the campus of Iona College in New Rochelle, New York. New Rochelle is the location of the Thomas Paine Cottage Museum, located on the “last two acres of a 300 acre farm awarded to Paine by a grateful New York State for his services in the struggle for independence”. The event takes place October 11-13 and more information can be found at the event webpage. The goal of the event is:
“To build an interdisciplinary program in which the links – and ruptures – between late eighteenth century and twenty first century media, particularly digital publishing and archive development, social media, resource accessibility, author attribution software, and information technology, are explored.”
January 29, 1737 is Thomas Paine’s birthday and it is a good deed to remember his life and work. He was a British born revolutionary who was a central character in the American and French Revolutions on the side of democracy and human rights. He supported the causes of both Native Americans and African slaves in a time where this was heresy. Perhaps, his most important contribution to modern democracy is the words he wrote to inspire America to revolution for the sake of representative government in January of 1776:
SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness POSITIVELY by uniting our affections, the latter NEGATIVELY by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.
Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one: for when we suffer, or are exposed to the same miseries BY A GOVERNMENT, which we might expect in a country WITHOUT GOVERNMENT, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. For were the impulses of conscience clear, uniform and irresistibly obeyed, man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils to choose the least. Wherefore, security being the true design and end of government, it unanswerably follows that whatever form thereof appears most likely to ensure it to us, with the least expense and greatest benefit, is preferable to all others.
From the US history government website:
Throughout most of his life, his writings inspired passion, but also brought him great criticism. He communicated the ideas of the Revolution to common farmers as easily as to intellectuals, creating prose that stirred the hearts of the fledgling United States. He had a grand vision for society: he was staunchly anti-slavery, and he was one of the first to advocate a world peace organization and social security for the poor and elderly. But his radical views on religion would destroy his success, and by the end of his life, only a handful of people attended his funeral.
If you don’t know Paine, or want to know more, take a look at New York Times best-selling author Christopher Hitchens’ “Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man (Books That Changed the World)” or watch this documentary about Paine’s life by the BBC called “Thomas Paine: The most valuable Englishman”: