A part-time buffoon and ersatz scholar specializing in BS, pedantry, schmaltz and cultural coprophagia.
Thomas Paine is one of those writers who seemed to have been dropped by a deist God 200 years before the world was really ready for him. His energy, honesty and political bravery was intense. By his voice alone he helped transform the West. Common Sense, the Rights of Man, and finally the Age of Reason have all thrown the gauntlet down and caused people to either cheer him (Common Sense) or hiss his name (Age of Reason).
The Rights of Man was visionary in its call for intellectual republicanism and social justice. Paine was and is a prophetic voice for individual freedom and moral equality. He is my favorite founder to quote whenever I find myself in a debate where someone wants to lump the 'Founders' together in some giant Libertarian Christianity pudding. He was a true radical and a true American.
Wow. It is amazing to me to think this book was written in 1794/95. One of the most influential thinkers/writers/pamphleteers of the American AND French revolutions. You can't read Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins or Bart D. Ehrman and not feel that these authors ALL owe huge debts of gratitude to Thomas Paine and his last book. 'The Age of Reason', which essentially advocated deism, promoted humanism, reason and freethinking, and violently quarelled with ALL institutionalized religion (especially Christianity, viz the Bible), turned one of the heroes of the American Revolution into a social pariah. Only 6 people showed up for his funeral in 1809 (15 years after 'The Age of Reason' was first published) because many were still horrified by 'The Age of Reason'. Thomas Paine was an amazing thinker and like Hitch, I might not always agree with the end result of his thinking, but I am always amazed at the energy, force, originality and bravery of his thought.
A brilliant biography. IT is hard to separate my love of Morris' second Roosevelt biography from my love of TR. The book captures the dynamo-President's force, eccentricities, and political skill while also accurately capturing the politics of the time and the rise of America's global power. Occasionally a person enters the global stage with such energy, power, competence and audacity that it seems the earth moves for them and water separates. I can only think of a couple other leaders that capture the Nietzsche' Übermensch ideal (Napoleon, Fredrick the Great, Alexander, Caesar, etc) as well. Even when Teddy wasn't super, he was still super lucky.