The Theological Works of Thomas Paine

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University Press of the Pacific, 2003 - Political Science - 468 pages
Thomas Paine's "theological works," including his lengthy essay on "The Rights of Man." There are several long essays in this volume, along with copies of letters to Lafayette and others that were an important part of Paine's ongoing dialogue on morality, government, and human development. The three long essays in the book are titled: The Age of Reason; An Examination of the Passages of the New Testament, Quoted From the Old, and Called Prophecies of the Coming of Jesus Christ; and The Rights of Man. Paine writes very well and his style is quite easily appreciated by today's reader. This is scholarly, direct, and common sensical stuff. In "The Age of Reason," Paine explains that he believes in one God, and no more, and that he hopes for happiness beyond this life. Beyond that, he does "not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church." "I have always held it an opinion... that it is better to obey a bad law, making use at the same time of every argument to show its errors, and promote its repeal, than forcibly to violate it; because the precedent of breaking a bad law might weaken the force and lead to a discretionary violation of those which are good."

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About the author (2003)

Born to parents with Quaker leanings, Thomas Paine grew up amid modest circumstances in the rural environs of Thetford, England. As the recipient of what he termed "a good moral education and a tolerable stock of useful learning," little in Paine's early years seemed to suggest that he would one day rise to a stunning defense of American independence in such passionate and compelling works as Common Sense (1776) and The American Crisis essays (1776-83). Paine's early years were characterized by a constant struggle to remain financially solvent while pursuing a number of nonintellectual activities. Nevertheless, the young Paine read such Enlightenment theorists as Isaac Newton and John Locke and remained dedicated to the idea that education was a lifelong commitment. From 1753 to 1759, Paine worked alternately as a sailor, a staymaker, and a customs officer. Between 1759 and 1772, he married twice. His first wife died within a year of their marriage, and Paine separated amicably from his second wife after a shop they operated together went bankrupt. While these circumstances seemed gloomy, Paine fortuitously made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin in London in 1773. Impressed by Paine's self-education, Franklin encouraged the young man to venture to America where he might prosper. Arriving in Philadelphia in 1774, Paine quickly found himself energized by the volatile nature of Revolutionary politics. Working as an editor of Pennsylvania Magazine, Paine found a forum for his passionate radical views. In the years that followed, Paine became increasingly committed to American independence, and to his conviction that the elitist and corrupt government that had ruled over him in England had little business extending its corrosive colonial power to the States. Moved by these beliefs, Paine published Common Sense (1776), a test that proved invaluable in unifying American sentiment against British rule. Later, after joining the fray as a soldier, Paine penned the familiar lines in "The American Crisis": "These are the times that try men's souls." Fifteen years later, Paine wrote his other famous work, Rights of Man (1791). Drawing on his eclectic experiences as a laborer, an international radical politician, and a revolutionary soldier, Paine asserted his Lockeian belief that since God created humans in "one degree only," then rights should be equal for every individual.

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