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March 28, 1937 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 1937-03-28

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It Was

The Cause Of America

That Made Me An Author'

Paine Was True Revolutionary,
Neither Red Nor D.A.R. Patriot
By PROF. VERNER W. CRANE journalist of the American Revolu-
The two-hundredth anmversary of! tion. He had written one pamphlet.

Thomas Paine, Freedom Propagandist

Hesiketh Pearson's Biography
Shows Paine A Human Being

Thomas Paine's birth serves to link
another great age of revolution with
our own.
Tom Paine was the nearest thing
to a professional revolutionist that
the eighteenth century produced. In
America perhaps Sam Adams should
share the title. But Adams remained
a ,Bostonian provincial. Paine pur-
sued his vision of the "international
republic" from America to Europe,
from one revolution to the other.
After American independence he re-
turned to his native England. His
Rights of Man was a challenge to
Burke's counter-revolution, and at
the same time an attack on Federal-
ist "counter-revolutionaries" in
America. Then came his French
phase: membership in the Conven-
tion, the labors on the Constitution,
the whole pathetic attempt to plant
the seed of American republicanism
in soil plowed too deep by the French
Revolution. Franklin said, "Where
liberty is, there is my country." Paine
replied, "Where liberty is not, there is
As a revolutionary Paine fits
neither the pattern of the D.A.R. nor
the formula of the Red. Theodore
Roosevelt dismissed him as a "filthy
little atheist," a calumny which still
reflects conventional opinion. His lib-
ertarian and democratic principles
were of the eighteenth century, re-*
mote from the class-consciousness
and the economic determinism of the
contemporary radical. One thing,
however, all revolutions since Paine's
age have had in common. Revolu-
tions, it seems, are brought to the
boiling point by propaganda. That
is true today. It was also true in
revolutionary America.
T om Paine in his time was the
master propagandist of them all. "I
know but one kind of life I am fit
for," he wrote, "and that is a think-
ing one, and, of course, a writing one."
GouveneurMorris, whotdid not love
Paine, subtracted one item from this
self-inventory, but let the other stand.
Morris allowed him "an excellent pen
to write . . . but an indifferent head
to think." Certainly there is a
dearth of truly original ideas in
Paine's writings. But few men have
excelled him in putting ideas to
work in the minds of ordinary folk.
When the staymaker of Norfolk,
the cashiered exciseman, Tom Paine,
emigrated to Philadelphia in 1774,
there was little in his defeated career
to forecast his role as the supreme

With a letter of introduction, from
Franklin he got the editorship of
the Pennsylvania Magazine; wrote on
subjects which attracted his insati-
able curiosity; began as a controver-
sialist by attacking Negro slavery.
Philadelphia was the meeting place of
the continental congresses. Paine
watched as an outsider the festering
dispute with the mother country. By
January, 1776, he had prepared his
amazing intervention.
By January, 1776, the war in New
England was nearly nine months old.
January 9, 1776. From a Phila-
delphia press came the pamphlet
which rent the veil: Common Sense,
"Written by an Englishman." Ben
Franklin, some said, was the real
author; others attributed it to John
Adams. This was high praise. But
soon John Adams himself was writ-
ing to Abigail:'"His name is Paine,
a gentleman about two years ago
from England-a man who, General
Lee says, has genius in his eyes."
Paine had struck at the precise
psychological moment, when news
had just spread of the King's un-
bending speech to Parliament and the
burning of Norfolk. He had struck
with sledge-hammer blows to de-
molish the prestige of kings; to ridi-
cule the notion that an island could
rule a continent. Never had any issue
from an American press found sue'
a sale. Within three months it is
laid that at least 120,000 copies of
Common Sense had been distributed.
Washington, among others, soon re-
marked that it was "working a pro-
found change in the minds of men."
But Common Sense was not an iso-
lated tour de force. In December,
1776, Washington was in retreat
across New Jersey. Paine began the
first number of The American Crisis:
"These are the times thattrynmen's
souls. The summer soldier and the
sunshine patriot will in this crisis
shrink from the service of his coun-
try . . ." The successive numbers of
The Crisis (1776-83) mirror in extra-
ordinary journalism the issues of the
time. They show not merely Paine's
genius for the moving phrase, but his'
increasing mastery of all the weapons
of popular appeal-incisive argument,
the thrust of sarcasm, even (rather
rarely) the leaven of humor. William
Cobbett wrote with pardonable exag-
geration of the principles of the Rev-
olution that "it was Mr. Paine, and
Mr. Paine alone, who brought those
principles into action."

KIND. By Hesketh Pearson.
New York: Harper and Brothers.
1937. $3.00.
Men who have made reputations a
the champions of causes are saint.
or sinners according to one's sympa-
thies. Tom Paine was one of such
men. In this anniversary biography
by Hesketh Pearson it is made plainI
to the readers why the name of Tom
Paine could provoke spirited con-
troversy among his contemporaries
and contradictory epithets from their
descendants. The author has suc-
ceeded in presenting his subject as a
"credible human being" without re-
moving all the glamour (or odium)
that has been associated with his
name. In writing of Paine "pri-
marily as a man" he has not, however,
been able to forget that Paine was
and is an historical figure whose
claim to greatness should be de-
fended, and he has omitted informa-
Lion which leaves the reader in doubt
E about certain phases of Paine's life
<a The biography is a sympathetic treat-
ment of the "friend of mankind," no'
a glorification or a vilification of
revolutionary propagandist.
The author gives a full portrayal
~- - -___ - - - - - --- ---- of his subject, describing his varied
suddenly breaking upon the intel- activities and interests in a very en-
lectuals of the world, is engaging tertaining style. He depicts the or-
them in a gigantic struggle in which dinary character of Paine's youth and
they must either conquer or go mad. early manhood, eventful by reason of
The croquet piayer h:mseif is an i his failures rather than successes
Englishman of the well-known dilet- dealing sympathetically with the two
tante, bridge-playing type who has unhappy marriages, the second og
led a sheltered life with a moneyed which was entered into, in Paine's
aunt, touring the world and doing own words, "for prudential reasons.
)s little thinking as possible. On He writes briefly about Paine's sci-
the Perona terrace at Les Noupets, entific activities and his invention of
where the two are resting and taking a single-span bridge. He describes
the waters, the croquet player, who, very naturally, more fully Paine's ca-
by the way, is distinguished solely by reer as a pamphleteer both in Amer-
his expertness at that game, meets ica and in England, giving full recog-
"two very queer individuals" who nition to the influence exerted by his
produce what he calls "a peculiar dis- vigorous pen 'in the fight for in-
turbance of my mind." The first of dependence and in defense of the
these is a patient at a local psycho-eFrenchRevolution against the at-
pathic hospital, who tells him a tacks of those who, like Burke, were
strange tale of horror. shocked by the excesses of "democ-
This man, a doctor, explains that racy." He writes a lengthy account,
he left the London hospital in which of Paine's campaign in Jacobin

France for the establishment of a
democratic republic in which the l
rights of man would be constitution-
ally protected, and against the violent
methods employed during the Reign
of Terror. He tells of Paine's im-
prisonment, accepting without qual-
ification Conway's view of Gouver-
neur Morris's machinations, and of
his writing the Age of Reason which
so shocked public opinion as to injure
permanently his reputation, especial-
ly in America.
It is not unexpec:ec tia% Tearson
exaggerates the importance of his
subject's writings. No one doubts
that they were widely read and in-
fluential in his day and that theyi
have permanent value. Many readers
will not agree that the Revolution
would have failed had Paine not writ-
ten Common Sense and Crisis, which
is the implication of the book. These
pamphlets unquestionably aroused the
peopledto support the demand for in-
dependence and encouraged the dis-
heartened to fight on. Whether or
not the Revolution would have been
successful without them is a matter
of fruitless speculation. Many will
not agree that Paine "demolished"
Burke when he published The Rights
of Man. He did effectively answer
some of the arguments advanced in
Burke's Reflections but he did not
destroy their influence in England
and America.
Mr. Pearson has written of Paine's
stormy career in a lively and read-
able style. He makes use of well-
chosen quotations from Paine's writ-
ings mainly to present his social and
political ideas. The pithy phrases
with which Paine gained the atten-
tion of the ordinary men and women
of his time add to the interest of the
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Portrays A Smug World
Faced By Madness
Of Realization
Wells. The Viking Press. New York.
Civilization menaced by the soul of
the palaeolithic man, resurrected in
te minds of his descendants asrhis
bones are recovered by them from
deep in the earth he once ruled, is
the theme of this new horror tale
from the prolific and dynamic pen of
H. G. Wells.
Wells' idea, which he has expressed
in various forms in previous writings,'
is that modern man, ,contrary to
our usual smug opinion, is in no
way superior to his prehistoric an-
cestor, and that his mind, instead
of being developed, has only been
trained in a more or less haphazard
manner. This great truth, he holds.

1, IC. _ _

he was working to seek the peace
and quiet of a country practice where --
he might escape the realization of,
the terrible realities of the world's
existing social, political, and eco- I
nomic systems, whose faults have ob-
sessed his mind. Instead of finding
escape, of course, he has gone mad
under the strain, and has been
brought to Les Noupets by his psy-
chiatrist, Dr. Norbert, who now enters
the story in person.
Dr. Norbert, a type which rather C
recalls Professor Challenger of I
Doyle's Lost World, has succeeded in!
overcoming the same phobia with
which his patient is afflicted, and it
is by his own forcefultwords that the AN
croquet player and the reader ar e o
enlightened concerning the problem
Wells wishes to present.
The extent to which Wells' idea is
going to communicate itself to his
reader must be individually deteir- F
mined. If the latter's mind is open,
and perhaps already somewhat dis- ;
turbed, it may impress him tremen-

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