My friends all say I'm a Paine in the ass.
Aw....who am I kidding. I don't have friends. I mean, look at me: I stole George Washingtons hair, Thomas Jeffersons cravat, John Adams jacket, and Grumpy Cat's eyes.
The smirk I got from Steve Martian, but he traded it to me for my old 'arrow-through-the-head' gag.
What a rube....
So, yesterday I posted a lazy post. When I had yesterdays original post planned, I forgot exactly what day it was. When you're finished with todays post, you'll understand why I postponed it until today.
Or not. Whatever.
Yesterday I promised you an odd tale about Thomas Paine. And today, I deliver.
Raise your hands if you know who Thomas Paine was. Ok, now put your hands down, because you all look like idiots.
For those who don't remember, Thomas Paine was one of the founding fathers of America. In fact, it could be said that he is the founding father.
Tommy was born in England in 1737. And he grew up in a poor family and didn't receive much education. Any chance he could have had to get an education he lost because, not only did he grow up poor, he grew up an asshole.
In his defense, poor was not the optimal way to grow up in England in the mid 18th century. After all, you could be sent to jail just for being poor.
But the attitude he nurtured while growing really didn't help him. By his mid twentys, he had been married twice and was unable to hold down a steady job. And as he aged, it didn't get any better. His bad attitude made it hard to hold down a job, which made his attitude worse.
In his late 30's, he was working as a customs officer. Sounds like a sweet job, right? Well, no. At that time, smugglers were more popular than the customs agents. (smugglers provided cheaper goods than official channels). The pay sucked, and people hated him for his work.
Since he was so unpopular, Paine developed the habit of reading. His favorite subjects were science, philosophy and politics. Coincidentally, those were the main subjects for books at the time.
Gaining inspiration from the political and philosophical reading, he tried to organize his fellow customs agents into a group to protest for better pay and working conditions. Shockingly, he was successful.
And by successful I mean he was fired.
It was at this point that Tommy-boy moved to London. New town, fresh start, right?
Finally, something he did worked out. While living in London he began attending meetings at the Royal Society. (group of men who would gather to discuss natural sciences on a weekly basis). Another person who attended the Royal Society when he was in town was Benjamin Franklin.
Benny was fascinated by the energy and passion Tom had when defending his viewpoints. They formed a friendship, and Benji told Tommy to go west. West to America, to be exact. Bens reasoning was, the rumblings of dissent were beginning to build steam, and he felt Tom could channel his ornery attitude into something the colonists could use.
Tommy wasn't a fan of England and the crown anyway, and he did enjoy rabble rousing, so he took the letters of introduction that Ben offered and set sail for the land of the free. (even though it wasn't yet...)
In 1774, shortly after arriving in America, Paine took a job writing articles for Pennsylvania Magazine.
When Tom arrived and began writing, the colonists beef with mother England was taxes. Specifically, the fact that they were being taxed, but weren't allowed to have representation in parliament to argue for their needs. (No taxation without representation!)
But in Toms head, trying to gain representation was the wrong thing to do. He felt that nothing less than a complete break from England would do. Paine called for independence!
He published a pamphlet on January 10, 1776 titled 'Common Sense'. In it he explained why nothing less than full independence from England would suffice.
And the people ate it up. Over 500,000 copies were sold. And that was almost unheard of at that time.
Six months later, Thomas Jefferson produced the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and anyone who read through it could see immediately the influence Common Sense had on the document.
Without Thomas Paine, America wouldn't be separate from England. It was his idea to break away. He was the first one to suggest independence, and once he did, the rest of the colonial leaders rolled with it.
The people in charge asked him to keep writing, to keep the public fired up. And he did. Between 1776 and 1783 he published 16 pamphlets that were called 'The Crisis Papers'. And they did the job they were intended to do. They fired everyone up. In fact, The first one of the papers inspired George Washington so much, he had it read to the troops at Valley Forge. Chances are, many of you will recognize the opening line: "These are the times that try mens souls..."
The popular consensus after the war was over was that Thomas Paine was was the hero of the Revolutionary War.
At least, he was to the people that didn't know him.
Remember at the beginning where I said he was an asshole? I wasn't kidding. None of the other founding fathers really liked the guy. Sure, he could stir the flames of rebellion, but the man was a real....dink. He had to be included in things because of the influence he wielded, but that didn't mean he had to get a prominent place in the government.
During the war he was given a series of minor political posts that were designed to keep him away from everybody. It worked out as it gave him time to concentrate on the Crisis Papers, but it didn't improve his attitude.
Once the war was over and the permanent government was formed, he found his services were no longer required. And that was very bad for Tom.
Even though he was arguably the most famous author at the time, he was dead broke. He mad no royalties off any of his work. He demanded that the price be kept low enough so even the commonest of the common men could afford to buy them. So, they were sold for the cost of publication.
Even though he was an ass, he did have people who had some semblance of honor that supported him. Those that felt America owed him a debt put fort a bill in congress to compensate him for his work in helping America gain her freedom. But people like John Adams and John Jay, both of whom really hated Tom, blocked the bill.
In the end, two state assemblies, Pennsylvanias and New Yorks, decided to help the poor guy out. Pennsylvania gave him $500, (about $70,000 today), and New York gave him a farm close to New York City.
You may think that the gifts meant Paine could settle down and live his life in contentment.
You may also think 2+2=dog. In other words, you'd think wrong. Paine wasn't finished yet.
This brings up to the end of todays oddity. Now you understand why I didn't write this last night?
Anyway, for those that missed it, the oddity here is the person who can be claimed to have been solely responsible for the American Revolution was pushed aside by the fledgling government he was responsible for.
But that's not all! Because I was so lazy last night, I have a bonus oddity for you! And that oddity is.....
I'm not done with Thomas Paine. Todays post is done, but it is....how shall we say.....going to be continued tomorrow. I have more Paine oddity for you coming up on the morrow.
And maybe, just maybe, you'll meet someone who was an even bigger asshole than Paine.