“Founding Enemies” (Pt 1/4) – Thomas Paine versus George Washington

We assume that all Founders were life long friends. Wrong!

The Founding Fathers were brilliant, outspoken men, with strong opinions. They disagreed on just about everything.  Not surprisingly, many of these men became “Founding Enemies.”

The Key Founding Fathers: How Many Can You Name?

It was a miracle that these “demigods” (Jefferson’s description) came together at one place and time in history and agreed on a Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. 

Thomas Paine: “Father of the American Revolution”

In 1776, Thomas Paine published the two most influential pamphlets ever written, Common Sense and The American Crisis. These pamphlets convinced the patriots to declare independence from Britain. Thus, he became the Father of the American Revolution.

Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Common Sense condemned British arrogance and tyranny, and advocated freedom and independence. The pamphlet was so popular that 500,000 copies were printed.

  • “It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world” 
  • But where, says some, is the King of America? I’ll tell you. Friend, he reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain.” 
  • From the errors of other nations, let us learn wisdom,” 
  • The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.”  

Thomas Paine, The American Crisis

“These are the times that try men’s souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly. . .”

After the American Revolution, Thomas Paine went to England, the heart of the tyranny, the “belly of the beast.”   

Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

In 1791, Thomas Paine published his most famous book, The Rights of Man. He defended the values of the French Revolution, “liberty, equality, and brotherhood,” against the British monarchy. Fundamental rights do not come from the king or government, they are natural and inherent. The book became a bestseller. Paine condemned the aristocracy and inherited wealth and power.  He argued for public education and a social “safety net.” 

  • “Reason obeys itself; and ignorance submits to whatever is dictated to it.” 
  • “Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.” 
  • “The World is my country, all mankind are my brethren, and to do good is my religion.” “… why do men continue to practice in themselves, the absurdities they despise in others?”

When Paine tried to start a revolution in England, a warrant was issued for his arrest for seditious libel and treason. He wisely fled to France where he received a hero’s welcome.

Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason

In France, Paine published his work, The Age of Reason. He ridiculed organized religion in general, and Christianity in particular. He criticized the “spurious” Bible.

  • “It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man.” 
  • “I do not believe in the creeds professed . . . . My own mind is my own church.”
  • “All national institutions of churches . . . appear to me no other than human inventions set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.”
  • “Of all the systems of religion that ever were invented, there is no more derogatory to the Almighty, more unedifying to man, more repugnant to reason, and more contradictory to itself than this thing called Christianity. Too absurd for belief, too impossible to convince, and too inconsistent for practice, it renders the heart torpid or produces only atheists or fanatics.” 

After publicly criticizing the new revolutionary government, Paine was arrested.  American ambassador James Monroe used his personal connections to secure Paine’s release.

Personal Attacks on George Washington

Paine was very upset that George Washington had not personally intervened to prevent Paine’s arrest.  In fact, Paine became convinced that Washington had conspired with the French to have Paine imprisoned.

In retaliation, Paine started publishing open “Letters to George Washington,” attacking America’s most beloved hero. Paine accused Washington of being an incompetent general.  He condemned him for being an elitist president.  He branded Washington as a fake and a fraud.  He accused Washington of corruption while serving as general and president. He insisted that Washington was an egomaniac.  Ouch!

The Final Years

In 1802, after the death of George Washington, President Thomas Jefferson, invited Thomas Paine to return to the United States.

Paine had alienated people of faith in general, and Christians in particular. He defamed George Washington, the “Father of the Country,” the most popular man in America. 

When he returned to America, Paine was shunned. He went from being the heroic “Father of the American Revolution,” to being “the least popular man in America.”  

Pauper’s Death and Burial

Thomas Paine died a lonely pauper in 1809. On his deathbed, his doctor tried to get Paine to accept Jesus Christ as his Savior. Paine’s last words were, “I have no wish to believe on that subject.”

 The funerals for most Founding Fathers were well attended. Benjamin Franklin, drew a funeral crowd of over 20,000 people

By contrast, the funeral of Thomas Paine was attended by only six people, counting the grave diggers. Not a single politician or Founding Father attended. There was no eulogy. There was no sermon. There was no dedication of the grave. Thomas Paine died in poverty and obscurity.

By making himself an enemy of Christianity and George Washington, Thomas Paine made himself an enemy of America. 

(Sources: “Thomas Paine,” “Common Sense,” “The American Crisis,” “Rights of Man,” Wikipedia; American Ride series, BYUtv; Personal tour of Mt. Vernon; “Common Sense Quotes by Thomas Paine,” “Age of Reason Quotes by Thomas Paine,” “The Rights of Man Quotes by Thomas Paine,” Goodreads.)

(Other Articles: http://www.londonedition.net)

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