Thomas Paine was a ‘Norfolk Boy’ who went on to be one of the great revolutionary political writers of his time. In a book of his work he is described as ‘The First International Revolutionary’, although throughout the book there is a sense of his kindness and compassion for the ordinary man. He supported the French revolution, and we know from history that the plight of the ordinary people of that period was bound to bring about change. He wrote extensively and still has a great following with a Thomas Paine Society followed by very intellectual people (I am fascinated by his writings but am certainly not intellectual).
I am what is known as a psychic/spiritual artist: which is a form of mediumship through art. At the start of this year I found myself drawing pictures of political people from the 18th century with one thing in common in that they all were for the abolition of slavery. This came as a total surprise and I have yet to see where it takes me, however, Tom’s name kept coming up although I hadn’t done a correct picture of him. When I found that he had been born and brought up a 20minute drive from my home I wanted to research more. So I visited the museum and bought a book containing some of his writings produced with the original spelling and grammar where possible, and much of that writing is about his love for America in fact he refers to it as ‘my beloved America’ where he had lived in Pennsylvania; and had quite an input into the first constitution, after the American War of Independence.
I have been reading this book throughout the ‘Brexit’ vote here in the UK and the American presidential vote, and as I have read many of his words I keep thinking “that’s happening again now.” Two of his most famous works are ‘Rights of Man’ and ‘Common Sense’ which deal with the manner in which a country should be governed, and is what we now call democracy; stating that each man (obviously now woman also) had a right to vote for their representation in government; a home, food and comfort and only as much taxation as they could comfortably afford. They also had the right to have their thoughts respected but the majority opinion would carry through, which must then be respected by all. He also published a system which would now be considered a welfare state with pensions for the elderly and retired soldiers.
He became very unpopular in his home country for supporting the French revolution and the American War of Independence, and for publishing his views at a price many people could afford to purchase.
This year Gt Britain and America have been split by votes that have been very close for and against, and it has to some extent turned people against each other. President-Elect Donald Trump does not like to be criticised and neither did Thomas Paine, both becoming very vocal in those circumstances: although with Thomas it was by writing. The forces that Thomas Paine wrote against were monarchies and aristocracy, but if we changed those words to ‘Big Business-International Companies’ and ‘Pharmaceutical Companies’ we could look at it from a modern aspect. Mr Trump is a businessman not a politician, so he really knows how big business operates, and he also likes to be popular and will want to go down as the best ever president. He is in a very good position to influence those businesses if he so chooses. He wants to unite America: I hope he remembers that the original Americans (Indian tribes) were not from Europe. Thomas Paine quoted the numbers of nationalities in his book from the various states at that time, and from what I can see they were all European, but he didn’t make much mention of the Indian tribes and that surprised me. He also had great respect for the character of the first president, George Washington, I am sure that Mr Trump would love to think that 300 years hence he is remembered with that degree of respect.
I like to contribute to a variety of charities and one of them is Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders) and they send out quarterly updates. One small paragraph in this recent one has shocked me, it refers to Pharmaceutical Companies and states that GlaxoSmithKline has at last agreed to lower the price of vaccines for pneumonia to humanitarian organisations. Earlier this year they had been forced to pay £50 a shot to treat child refugees and children in crisis, this has now dropped to about £7. Thank God it has. GSK is a British company and it is up to us Brits to harass them if they don’t keep their word. However, Pfizer, an American company has so far refused to drop the price of its vaccines. This is where President Trump could show his Christian values and coerce Pfizer to drop their prices for these desperate children. We the adults have caused these situations and all children have an equal right to life.
Thomas Paine ended his days rather sadly having been branded a ‘Jacobin’ (or something considered equally troublesome or even treasonable) in the 3 countries he had been so involved in. Never the less he is a local hero where I live, there is a very nice statue to him in Thetford his home town. Thomas Paine thought that government should be founded on moral theory, a system of universal peace, and the indefeasible hereditary ‘Rights of Man.’ Bless him he thought that if man had all those things he would never want to go to war again. History knows otherwise.
There are many concerns and fears about Brexit and Mr Trump’s presidency but we do not know what other influences will come in, and we have to just hope that the world will become a better more fair place.
P.S. I had wondered what a ‘Jacobin ‘was so looked it up and was surprised to find that there is a Jacobin journal in America at this time where people can express left-wing political opinions. Wouldn’t it be fun if Thomas Paine could return and debate with Donald Trump.