Tom Paine: America's Godfather, 1737-1809

By W. E. Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
The Revolution's Financial Crisis

I

THE fact that he was the best known author in America was small comfort to Thomas Paine when measured against the pressing hardships of no work and no money. The Secretary- ship of the Foreign Affairs Committee had been too poorly paid to permit him to save money; and his quixotic streak had kept him from accepting any pay for his patriotic writings on American affairs.

In a letter to Henry Laurens he wrote on September 14, 1779:

I find myself so curiously circumstanced that I have both too many friends and too few, the generality of them thinking that from the public part I have so long acted I cannot have less than a mine to draw from. What they have had from me they have got for nothing, and they consequently suppose I must be able to afford it.

He had to borrow money to live on--to buy meals, to pay his laundress, to provide candles, to cover the rent of his room. To a man with his sense of pride such an existence was unspeakably humiliating, and he was relieved when Owen Biddle offered him a petty clerkship.

His duties appear, from this distance in time, to have been the taking care of part of Biddle's correspondence and the filing of documents. The amount of his salary is not known, but it must have been small, for the job was an insignificant one. It brought in enough to keep him alive and, as the work took only a little of his time, he had plenty of leisure for writing.

At that time--in the middle period of the American Revolution--there was a strong and popular movement in Pennsylvania against profiteering. Prices of all commodities had gone up enormously since the beginning of the war and were still rising.

-118-

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Tom Paine: America's Godfather, 1737-1809
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 5
  • Contents 7
  • Illustrations 9
  • Chapter I - The Little Quaker Boy 13
  • Chapter II - A Life Without Motive 33
  • Chapter III - Paine Comes to America 50
  • Chapter IV - Paine Writes a Best Seller 66
  • Chapter V - A Restless Intellectual 85
  • Chapter VI - The Silas Deane Controversy 97
  • Chapter VII - The Revolution's Financial Crisis 118
  • Chapter VIII - Paine as a Propagandist 133
  • Chapter IX - Iron Bridges and Tallow Candles 152
  • Chapter X - The Rights of Man 173
  • Chapter XI - More Books--More Trouble 199
  • Chapter XII - Outlawed in England 222
  • Chapter XIII - The Age of Reason 251
  • Chapter XIV - Monroe Rescues Paine 275
  • Chapter XV - The Last Sad Years 304
  • Bibliography 342
  • Index 345
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