New Rochelle N.Y. has offered a reward for the remains of Thomas Paine for re-burial. A corset-maker by trade in England, Paine immigrated to the American colonies in 1774 in time to play a major role in the American Revolution. With little journalistic experience, Paine wrote a powerful, widely read pamphlet “Common Sense,” which advocated colonial America’s independence from England. When Americans suffered losses, Paine wrote a series of “Crises Papers” that helped stir America on to victory. New York awarded Paine a home in New Rochelle.
The British statesman Edmund Burke wrote a book against the French Revolution, alleging monarchy as the finest system of government. Paine returned to England, took on Burke, defended the French Revolution and published “The Rights of Man,” the most important book on civil rights in the 18th century, dedicating the book to George Washington. He challenged the King’s authority, alleging the right of self determination. With a warrant for his arrest, Paine fled to France, where he accepted membership in the French General Assembly. The French Revolution took a terrible turn – the guillotine for royalty. Paine, remembering the support King Louis XVI gave America in our Revolution, begged to save his life. Wrong timing! The French Assembly sentenced Paine to the guillotine. Paine wrote to Washington to save his life. Washington chose not to interfere. Facing death, Paine wrote a book “The Age of Reason” in which he advocated deism, promoted reason and argued against all institutionalized religions, particularly Christian doctrine. American Ambassador, James Monroe, interceded and saved Paine’s life. Paine returned to America, publishing a letter critical of Washington. America turned against Paine, the media accusing him of being an atheist and a drunk.
Paine died in 1809 in New York, a broken man. No American cemetery would accept Paine for burial. A friend buried Paine by the side of the road in New Rochelle. A misguided man, believing he could make money with Paine’s body, dug it up and shipped it to England, where it disappeared. Paine is being rediscovered, as he believed in freedom, equality and dignity for all people.