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Paine and Jefferson in the Age of Revolutions

Paine and Jefferson in the Age of Revolutions

Simon P. Newman
Peter S. Onuf
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Paine and Jefferson in the Age of Revolutions
    Book Description:

    The enormous popularity of his pamphletCommon Sensemade Thomas Paine one of the best-known patriots during the early years of American independence. His subsequent service with the Continental Army, his publication ofThe American Crisis(1776-83), and his work with Pennsylvania's revolutionary government consolidated his reputation as one of the foremost radicals of the Revolution. Thereafter, Paine spent almost fifteen years in Europe, where he was actively involved in the French Revolution, articulating his radical social, economic, and political vision in major publications such asThe Rights of Man(1791),The Age of Reason(1793-1807), andAgrarian Justice(1797). Such radicalism was deemed a danger to the state in his native Britain, where Paine was found guilty of sedition, and even in the United States some of Paine's later publications lost him a great deal of his early popularity.

    Yet despite this legacy, historians have paid less attention to Paine than to other leading Patriots such as Thomas Jefferson. InPaine and Jefferson in the Age of Revolutions,editors Simon Newman and Peter Onuf present a collection of essays that examine how the reputations of two figures whose outlooks were so similar have had such different trajectories.

    eISBN: 978-0-8139-3477-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[iv])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [v]-[viii])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    On March 4, 1809, Thomas Jefferson concluded his second term as president of the United States and retired from public life. Three months later, on June 8, Thomas Paine died in Greenwich Village, New York City. To mark the bicentennial of Paine’s death, a small group of scholars gathered at the Reform Club in London under the auspices of the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies. For three days, we discussed Thomas Paine’s place and significance in the Age of Revolution, often in direct comparison with his friend and fellow radical, Thomas Jefferson. This volume of essays is...


    • The Radicalism of Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine Considered
      (pp. 13-25)

      Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine could not have been more different in background and temperament. Jefferson was a wealthy slaveholding aristocrat from Virginia who was as well connected socially as anyone in America. His mother was a Randolph, perhaps the most prestigious family in all of Virginia, and positions in his society came easy to him. Personally, he was cool, reserved, and self-possessed. He disliked personal controversy and was always charming in face-to-face relations with both friends and enemies. Although he played at being casual, he was utterly civilized and genteel. He mastered several languages, including those of antiquity, and...

    • “The Whole Object of the Present Controversy”: The Early Constitutionalism of Paine and Jefferson
      (pp. 26-48)

      In 1776 Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson were in Philadelphia and each made his most notable contribution to the American Revolution—Paine publishingCommon Senseand Jefferson drafting the Declaration of Independence.¹ As a consequence of these activities, Paine and Jefferson are, perhaps, more closely associated with the colonies’ decision to declare independence than any other figures. The case for independence, persuasively made by Paine inCommon Senseand fluently distilled by Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, has somewhat obscured their attempts to grapple with fundamental constitutional questions. The creation of republican governments—for the individual states and the...

    • Thomas Paine’s Early Radicalism, 1768–1783
      (pp. 49-70)

      Between 1768 and 1783, Thomas Paine’s political radicalism and revolutionary enthusiasm developed in two phases: in his experiences in the small towns and hamlets throughout Midlands England and Sussex, and then in his first year in America after his arrival in Philadelphia in November 1774. Once in his new country, he cultivated a vision of how Americans could transform their country into a genuine democratic republic. He then embarked on a quest to ensure that European nations, including Britain, followed the Americans by creating their own republics. Paine was among the first radical writers to demonstrate that a political career...

    • Paine, Jefferson, and Revolutionary Radicalism in Early National America
      (pp. 71-94)

      No more than twelve people attended the funeral of Thomas Paine on June 10, 1809, when he was buried on his farm in New Rochelle, New York. No political leaders attended, no eulogy was given, and the event was little reported and largely ignored. In stark contrast, when Thomas Jefferson died, on the fiftieth anniversary of American independence, the entire nation mourned.¹ Why were these two Revolutionary brothers in arms treated so differently? In 1776 they had been the heroes of the American patriots, embodying the radical promise and potential of the American Revolution. As the authors ofCommon Sense...

    • Paine, Jefferson, and the Modern Ideas of Democracy and the Nation
      (pp. 95-118)

      Democracy and the idea of the nation are two concepts that over the course of the last two hundred and fifty years have significantly shaped the development of the modern world. As a result, historians and scholars of other disciplines have paid a great deal of attention to the history of these key concepts. Often, however, scholars concentrate on the empirical “realities” of democracy and the nation and neglect the conceptual changes that were essential to the rise of the modern forms of these two concepts.¹ To a degree, this neglect has shrouded the nature of their development and relationship....


    • Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin’s French Circle
      (pp. 121-136)

      Among the innumerable books written about either Benjamin Franklin or Thomas Paine, none fails to mention the long-lasting friendship between the two revolutionaries. Paine’s biographers are particularly fond of quoting Franklin’s description of Paine as his “adopted political Son,” without acknowledging that its source is none other than Paine himself.¹ The two men were close, but Franklin’s role as a mentor has been misunderstood due to a narrow focus on Paine’s early days in America. Less well known is Franklin’s profound impact on Paine’s later life through his introduction of the younger man to his circle of noble friends in...

    • Revolutionaries in Paris: Paine, Jefferson, and Democracy
      (pp. 137-160)

      In “Discourse on the Love of Our Country,” Richard Price wrote: “Be encouraged all ye friends of freedom and writers in its defence. . . . Behold the light you have struck out, after setting America free, reflected to France and there kindled into a blaze that lays despotism in ashes and warms and illuminates Europe.”¹ Price’s stirring celebration of the cause of liberty seems to endorse a view that became widely held between 1789 and 1792, namely, that the principles of the American Revolution had laid the foundation for a similar revolution in France that might also extend to...

    • The Troubled Reception of Thomas Paine in France, Germany, the Netherlands, and Scandinavia
      (pp. 161-182)

      Historians of ideas, and historians of the Enlightenment, have long since recognized the initial impact of Thomas Paine in France, pointing to his multiple election as deputy to the Convention parliament in 1792 as evidence of the extent to which his name and reputation had become well established in France. But we have not had such full accounts of his political role from the perspective of his fellow participants in the new French Republic, nor explanations of why his influence waned so rapidly in 1793. Equally, we lack understanding of why he had little impact in the German-speaking world, and...


    • Empire without Colonies: Paine, Jefferson, and the Nootka Crisis
      (pp. 185-208)

      It is hard to imagine a more apposite opening paragraph than that which graces Harold Adams Innis’s monumentalThe Fur Trade in Canada:“The history of Canada has been profoundly influenced by the habits of an animal which very fittingly occupies a prominent place on her coat of arms. The beaver (Castor Canadensis) was of dominant importance in the beginnings of the Canadian fur trade. It is impossible to understand the characteristic developments of the trade or of Canadian history without some knowledge of its life and habits.”¹ So it is, with the lowly beaver, that the nation of Canada...

    • Thomas Paine and Jeffersonian America
      (pp. 209-228)

      Thus Thomas Paine opened the second part of his best-selling work,Rights of Man, which was published in February 1792 and which is often characterized as a key text in the British debate on the revolution in France, but in which Paine was in fact much more concerned to present America as a model republican government than to defend Revolutionary France.¹ To Paine, America was a glorious demonstration of republican principles successfully at work, a practical example for other states to imitate. His aspirations for the new republic were expressed in a prolific stream of journalism and personal correspondence from...

    • Thomas Jefferson’s Portrait of Thomas Paine
      (pp. 229-251)

      A portrait of Thomas Paine was among the artwork from Thomas Jefferson’s personal collection sent to the Boston Athenaeum for exhibition and sale in 1828. The small painting had been a gift from the artist John Trumbull to Jefferson in late 1788 and had remained a part of Jefferson’s collection until after his death and the dispersal of his estate. It was not listed as one of the pieces sold at the Athenaeum, yet its whereabouts following the sale were unknown until it was identified in 1955. The only bit of its intervening history on record was the portrait’s purchase...

    • Two Paths from Revolution: Jefferson, Paine, and the Radicalization of Enlightenment Thought
      (pp. 252-276)

      Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine shared an enthusiasm for the revolutions of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Both, of course, were strong partisans of the American Revolution; both were among the strongest non-French supporters of the French Revolution. Both called for and welcomed future revolutions. No American citizens played a greater role in the French Revolution than Jefferson and Paine. The former was much involved in the early stages of the Revolution, consulting with the Lafayette circle and advising on theDeclaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Paine was even more heavily engaged, serving...

  7. Conclusion: Thomas Paine in the Atlantic Historical Imagination
    (pp. 277-296)

    Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson have long been associated with one another in the American historical imagination. Their many detractors have tended to regard them as unrepresentative radicals who were profoundly out of step with their fellow citizens, especially in regard to their religious beliefs. Their admirers, on the other hand, have lauded Paine and Jefferson as foundational articulators of what would become the egalitarian, democratic, and inclusionary commitments at the heart of the American political tradition. As the political winds have shifted over the past two centuries, so have Paine and Jefferson’s reputations, sometimes in tandem, sometimes not. The...

  8. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 297-300)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 301-312)