Saturday, January 28, 2006

It Usually Begins With...

Commerce is no other than the traffic of two individuals, multiplied on a scale of numbers; and by the same rule that nature intended for the intercourse of two, she intended that of all. For this purpose she has distributed the materials of manufactures and commerce, in various and distant parts of a nation and of the world; and as they cannot be procured by war so cheaply or so commodiously as by commerce, she has rendered the latter the means of extirpating the former.--Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine (1/29/1737–6/8/1809). There is little that I can add to the voluminous writings by or about Paine. Author of Common Sense, Crisis Papers, Age of Reason, Rights of Man, and many other essays and poetry, this visionary has stood the test of time. More than any other writer since, he has influenced our vision of the nature of liberty, limited government, rights, and even religion. An abolitionist who pushed americans and others into the recognizing the humanity of african americans, a feminist before the term was invented. Perhaps the greatest opponent (certainly the most important) of monarchy in the history of humankind, he, like the great libertarian over a century before, John Lilburne, opposed king-killing, for rational and reasonable grounds. Generations of radicals would emigrate to America or attempt a revolution in their own countries.

Even the language of freedom has been affected by him. Paine grasped the necessity of both the overthrow of the tyranny of kings and the divine right of kings, and the tyranny of religious dogma and its inevitable intolerance. He was concerned that governments are instituted among men and derive their power only from the consent of those governed. He was, as he further considered the matter, also concerned about religion deriving its only power based upon the same consent. As I stated over a quarter-century ago,
...[O]ne cannot understand the demise of the Old Order (Ancié Regime, monarchy) and the concomitant rise of Republican forms of government without reference to Thomas Paine, who effectively changed the thinking of the American and French revolutionaries from that of mere rebellion to rejection of the principle of monarchy.

Just as important, "Paine not only compsed the most telling attach upon monarchy to be published in America (with Common Sense), but he was also the first pamphleteer in America to reach a mass audience. Political writings, heretofore, were addressed to society's elite who, it was believed, were uniquely capable of understanding such matters. Paine's primary audience was not the elite, the but rising laboring and artisan class of which he himself was a representative. Paine's genius lies in In its content and as a new genre of political literature, Common Sense is a revolutionary work."

...Common Sense and the Crisis Papers by Thomas Paine were only the beginning statements of the new propaganda war of the republican radicals against monarchy..."--The Three Enlightenments (Santa Ana: Rampart Institute, 1980. p. 8)
At the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Paine proudly stated that the American Revolution had
"...contributed more to enlighten the world, and diffuse a spirit of freedom and liberality among mankind, than any human event...that ever preceded it."--Thomas Paine, The American Crisis XIII in Philip Foner's The Life and Major Writings of Thomas Paine (Seacaucus NJ: Citadel Press, 1948. p. 232)
The spirit of the American Revolution soared into the minds and hearts throughout the world: France, Ireland, Britain, Latin America, Russia, Africa and even China. Successful in some, but always an undercurrent wherever it touched, Paine is the most honored of our founding fathers, not just of the United States of America, but of the principles of the American Revolution.

Just a thought.
Just Ken
CLASSical Liberalism


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