Tom Paine: America's Godfather, 1737-1809

Tom Paine: America's Godfather, 1737-1809

Tom Paine: America's Godfather, 1737-1809

Tom Paine: America's Godfather, 1737-1809

Excerpt

For about a hundred and fifty years Tom Paine has been a target for abuse. Much of it has come from ignorance, and the clods of mental dirt that are flung when Paine's name is mentioned are often cast by people who have never read anything that he wrote, and who know nothing about him except his name. He has been called an atheist, a hater of Christ and a man steeped in sin. These lying epithets have become so deeply imbedded in the minds of men and women that they may never be wholly effaced, for popular hate--like popular esteem--furnishes its own nourishment and grows with the passage of time.

"An eminent man in an age of conflict must be, to the folk imagination, either wholly good or bad," says Dixon Wector. "After his death this legend continues to expand, helped by orators, poets, biographers and interested groups for or against him. If he is soon accepted by the mass as its saint or hero all his faults are forgotten; but if he proves unacceptable he becomes a villain, and whatever services he rendered are canceled out. . . . Hero worship read backwards is like the Black Mass."

The purpose of this biography is to present a true picture of Tom Paine and his place in American history. This means that both his good and bad qualities should appear, and as I had no prejudice in the matter and no predetermined opinion of Paine and his accomplishments, it would seem, on first consideration, that the preparation of the book would not be a very difficult task. But it has turned out to be extremely complicated, for the reason that the data concerning Paine have been overlaid by such an accumulation of lies, false impressions, twisted remarks, and untrue and slanderous episodes that the most intensive research has been required.

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