We wish Thomas Paine were alive today. We’d hire him.
He seems like the kind of guy who would fit well in our little publishing house.
But did you know that after he died, nobody wanted the controversial writer’s body?
Really, it didn’t matter. With a grand total of six folks showing up for his funeral, there were hardly enough men to carry his casket to his grave.
Even so, Paine wanted to be buried at a Quaker cemetery. But they wouldn’t have him.
He penned negatively about organized religion one too many times.
In the end, friends were forced to dig a hole for him at his family’s farm.
A bit later, they dug him up and sent his body back to his homeland in England.
Turns out nobody wanted him there, either.
If the rumors are true, some of his bones were made into buttons. The rest were trashed.
That’s no good.
But we get it.
Of course, we don’t think Paine would be treated all that differently today – that is, if the powers that be would even publish his ideas.
Think for Yourself
We’d publish him, though.
Although his views on religion may be more widely accepted today, we say it’s not his staunch opposition to organized religion and “priestly hierarchies” that we should praise him for.
No, it’s his yearning to make men think for themselves.
It was a rare trait during the 18th century… but the notion may be even more scarce these days.
At his core, Thomas Paine was a writer – and a good one, too.
His pamphlet Common Sense was the best-selling book ever published in America at the time. It opened colonial eyes and led our nation to seek a revolution, not just a reconciliation with Great Britain.
You see, when Ben Franklin first invited Paine to the colonies in 1775, the notion of “Liberty for All” wasn’t in the minds of most folks. The royalty back in England was starting to wield its power, but most folks blindly followed along.
But Paine saw the fallacy nearly the minute he stepped on the New England soil.
He wrote that he “found the disposition of the people such, that they might have been led by a thread and governed by a reed.”
That’s when the great thinker picked up his pen and went to work.
He went after anything that used its strength to gain control or money.
He picked on religion, for sure. After all, a dominating church and the notion of religious freedom are what brought so many to the new land.
Paine believed in God, but he certainly didn’t believe in the church.
In fact, he didn’t believe in anything big.
The Hero of the Little Man
That’s what we beg the man be known for. You see, Paine didn’t envision the sort of government we have today. He was at great odds with men like John Adams and his bevy of Federalist pals.
They wanted a big, powerful central government.
But Paine wrote of what modern historians now call radical democracy.
He wanted the little man to be adequately represented.
His work was convincing. In fact, without his efforts to convince colonists to think for themselves, there’s a very strong chance our nation would look very different today.
Washington, dare we say it, would have even more power.
We say it’s one of the most powerful examples of free thought… ever.
Paine convinced folks not to fall to the party line… not to blindly follow somebody addicted to power and control… and not to ignorantly believe the thoughts of others.
What follows is an unpopular quote. It doesn’t make folks feel good. But what Paine said of free thought are words that should scroll across the bottom of every mainstream news broadcast:
You will do me the justice to remember, that I have always strenuously supported the Right of every Man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.
With thoughts like that… we get it.
We understand why few folks showed up at his funeral. Nobody wants to change his mind. Nobody wants to be told he could be wrong.
It’s more true today than ever.
Turn on the news.
Folks want to listen only to the folks like them.
It’s what drives the mainstream press.
And it’s also what’s dividing this nation like never before.
We wish there were more men like Paine.
CNN wouldn’t spread his ideas.
But we would… gladly.