Thomas Paine
and the American Revolution

Carl Shapiro

[Excerpts from an address delivered at the Thomas Paine National Historical Association, New Rochelle, New York, Annual Birthday Celebration, 29 January, 1969]

Carl Shapiro is a writer and composer. His articles, reviews, and letters have appeared in such magazines and newspapers as The New York Times, Milwaukee Journal, Libertarian Review, Hi-Rise Living, and New Jersey's The Record, Star-Ledger, Paterson News, Jersey Journal, and Herald-News. A member of the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP), his choral anthem, "Liberty Tree," was performed in a Bicentennial concert, televised nationally in 1976 over NBC-TV. His poem about the American flag, "It's Only a Piece of Cloth," has been recited more than once on the Merv Griffin Show, as well as over public television on the Over Easy Show. He has also co-hosted the Joe Franklin Show over WOR-TV. Shapiro's first novel, No Candy, No Flowers, was published in 1984. In 1982, he wrote and copyrighted a drama, THE GENIUS. Shapiro's fiction works and play have been commended by literary and theatrical professionals and notables, including New York Mayor Ed Koch, television's Tom Snyder, and actor Martin Balsam.

We are deeply honored to commemorate the two hundred and thirty-second anniversary of the birth of a great Englishman, a great Frenchman, and one of the founding fathers of our Republic - perhaps the foremost patriot and spokesman for humanity ever to appear upon the stage of civilization.

Much to our nation's disgrace the name of Thomas Paine has been veiled in history because of his non-conforming religious beliefs. The truth is that Paine had the courage and candor, born of honesty, to declare that the popular religion, as the song goes, just ain't necessarily so. But I shall not be concerned today with Paine's theology, only his importance to the history of the United states. As another outstanding figure, Thomas Edison, said about Paine, "He was the equal of Washington in making American liberty possible."

Thomas Paine was born in England at a time when kings commanded and commoners cringed. We find that most school books avoid telling of the folly of royal despotism. But history cannot be properly studied without considering its moral aspect. History must not be whitewashed in the gaudy pageantry of kings and dictators.

Paine's boyhood in England, an impoverished one at that, made him aware of the suffering of the common people. The privileges of the parasitical aristocratic classes permitted them to live, as we usually say, off the fat of the land, that is to say, off the sweat and toil of others. Vast estates were freely given to greedy men with superficial titles, and always at the expense of another's labor. The sight of such unspeakable indignities awakened Paine's sense of justice, and an unremitting hatred of tyrannical governments became the stimulus through which he would mold his destiny.


It was the voice of Thomas Paine that decisively ended all thoughts of reconciliation with Great Britain. Common Sense not only showed that America did not need any military or commercial privileges from England, but it was the first public attack on the king himself. No one had ever dared to insult King George. But to Paine, George was the real criminal, the sceptered tyrant, "a royal brute masquerading in a robe and crown." Paine said, "Of more worth Is one honest man to society than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived."

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