Thomas Paine

Burke v. Paine


The things one finds on the internet!  A debate between Edmund Burke, the foremost critic of the French Revolution, and Thomas Paine, an ardent defender of the French Revolution.  Filmed in 1974, the setting of this imaginary debate is a dinner party of playwright Richard Sheridan.  The arguments largely are taken from Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) and Paine’s answering pamphlet, The Rights of Man (1791).  Ironically Paine later would narrowly miss being executed by French Revolutionaries.  Elected to the National Convention he argued against the execution of the King stating instead that he should be exiled to the United States.  His moderate politics, at least moderate in the context of the French Revolution, made Paine a marked man by the radical Jacobins.  Arrested in December 1793 he narrowly missed execution, saved by the fall of Robespierre.

The Unquiet Afterdeath of Thomas Paine’s Corpse

The Reformation was engendered in beastly lust, brought forth in hypocrisy and perfidy, and cherished and fed by plunder, devastation, and by rivers of innocent English and Irish blood.

William Cobbett

A good trick question for a history quiz would be, “Where is Thomas Paine buried?”  The correct answer would be, “No one knows!’

Paine died in New York City on June 18, 1809.  His views on Christianity had made him persona non grata in the US, his services during the American Revolution to the cause of Independence being overlooked.  A controversy has raged since his death as to whether he did or did not recant his attacks against Christianity.  I would say the burden of the evidence is that he did not.   Six people attended his funeral.  No Christian church would bury him, so his corpse was interred in unhallowed ground under an oak tree on a farm he owned in New Rochelle.  There his bones rested until September 1819, when his body was stolen.

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