A Shout-Out to Tom Paine


Writing in the Guardian, Christopher Hitchens recalls fondly the life, death, and resonance of Tom Paine:

No president was to call upon Paine again until Ronald Reagan tried to enlist him in a quasi-libertarian campaign to reduce the size of government and to take on the moribund Soviet empire. "We have it in our power," he said, picking up one of Paine's more dubious statements, "to begin the world over again." This sort of emulation and plagiarism is a very particular kind of flattery, because it promotes Paine's work to that exalted company shared by the Bible and the works of Shakespeare, which recur to the mind in times of stress, or of need, or even of joy. In a time when both rights and reason are under several kinds of open and covert attack, the life and writing of Thomas Paine will always be part of the arsenal on which we shall need to depend.

Whole thing here. Courtesy of Arts & Letters Daily.

Hitchens' lengthy essay on "Rights of Man" here.

Hitchens' legendary 2001 interview with Reason here.

NEXT: Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If only Peter Bagge’s “Tom Paine In The Ass” was available on-line.

  2. If Tom Paine had been born about 250 years later, he would have been on the staff of Reason.
    …Or, maybe a P. J. O’Rourke.

  3. Thomas Edison, of all people, was one of Paine’s biggest champions at a time when Paine was thought of as little more than a trouble maker, and a mere footnote at bestto our country’s history. Edison thought he was as important to the revolutionary cause as Washington — in his own writerly way, that is.

  4. Kind of off-topic, but what do you think would happen if we put Hitchens in a room with Judith Reisman?


    (I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to link to this column and the Mel Gibson posts are too far down.)

  5. If Tom Paine had been born about 250 years later, he would have been on the staff of Reason.

    Actually, he’d brobably be disappeared to Guantanamo. Along with the signers of the Declaration of Independence. “Alter or abolish” government? Pu-leze.

  6. Ah, I’d forgotten about that Hitchens interview. I should point someone to it next time they give me a funny look when I call myself a “Marxist Libertarian”…

  7. Larry A,
    If he managed to keep his head, literally, in France during the 1790’s, I doubt he’d be in much more danger than Nick or yours truly today.

    (sings: They’re coming to take me away. A hee. A hoo.)

  8. Paine? Why, that dirty little atheist…

  9. I’ve been saying for years that nobody with a soul can read Thomas Paine without wanting to hurl a cinderblock through the window of the nearest federal building.

    Also: the Irishman’s poem quoted in the article is priceless.

  10. Anyone know what happened to the effort to get Thomas Paine a national memorial?

  11. Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” here

    shameless plug

  12. Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” here

    shameless plug

  13. Curious that Reagan would call on Thomas Paine. That scoundrel was a deist you know, just look at his attacks on Christianity!!!

    The 20th century Right has lived with this myth that the Founding Fathers were all nice little Christians….

  14. Thomas Paine would have loved Reagans drug war and the introduction of Para-military random roadblocks, as well as the massive assualt on the bill of rights revolving around the 4th amendment.

    And I’m sure he would have loved the corp/gov hybrids we all call “capitalism” nowadays.

    And I’m sure he would have loved Hutchins Hawkish beliefs. Thomas Paine clearly believed in a strong central government and military adventurism. Definitely.


  15. Hitchens is a complete fraud and so is Reason Magazine.

  16. Brillant take, as always. If I had a nickel, for everytime I was drunk at a funeral…well you know the rest.

    Thanks for standing up for a frustrated voice of reason. It is quite bewildering at times. You articulate with knowledge a geniune concern.

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.