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Book Reviews

Milt Gross Book Review: "Thomas Paine and the Promise of America" by Harvey J. Kaye
By Milton M. Gross
Jul 20, 2014 - 3:05:19 AM

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The picture of Tom Paine on the cover of Thomas Paine and the Promise 0f America makes him look serious. I think he was, and what he wrote about freedom is still being quoted. Freedom is a serious matter. Milt Gross photo.
I've for years wondered about Tom Paine. Harvey Kaye's book let me know about him. Paine was one of the heroes of the American Revolution, and his words have given encouragement to many over the years.

The book tells of Paine's written word, Common Sense, published in 1776, that strongly encouraged the American Revolution. While Paine may be considered a liberal because of his ideas of freedom in an age of British control of the colonies, he was quoted by many people, including anything-but-liberal former President Ronald Reagan, who repeated probably Paine's most well-known sentence, "We have it in our power to begin the world over again."

The book tells Paine's story, interestingly enough of how from his years of being a rabble-rousing (in writing) revolutionist, he was seldom mentioned because of that trait. But many used his words and ideas to foster freedom in the U.S. and in places around the world.

The introduction to Thomas Paine and the Promise of America states that our national heroes, the ones held aloft in our histories and literature, too had flaws. Because of his slaveholding, one public school dropped George Washington's name to be replaced by a deserving African American figure. Thomas Jefferson became the subject of arguments when DNA studies were released that showed he had fathered children by an African American slave.

Even religion got into the discussion, according to the book, with Paine's fellow quakers condemning him for being married in a Church of England ceremony. Paine, raised by parents, one of whom was quaker and the other Episcopalian, came to doubt Christianity because he viewed God as an angry father who allowed His son to be killed to revenge Himself against those who ignore or opposed God.

He described the U.S. as being fairly utopian, where "the poor are not oppressed, the rich not privileged." This view of America led some to help him, such as President Thomas Jefferson's at one point aiding Paine's return to the U.S. by offering him passage on an American warship, the book states.

The book states that, "Though elites denied Paine a place in 'official' commemorations of the Revolution, Americans never actually forgot his memory...." Much of the book reviews those who quoted Paine and praised him as the one whose words helped bring about the U.S. One such figure, William Sylvis, who, "Reflecting the influence of Common Sense, he drafted the manifesto of the National Labor Union in the fashion of the Declaration of Independence."

I've always wondered about Thomas Paine, since he seems to have become lost from most histories of the U.S. I grabbed the chance to read his life's story.

If you take seriously the basic tenets for which America is supposed to stand, I'd find a copy of Thomas Paine and the Promise of America. I found my copy in a book catalogue.

No price is on the paperback book itself, Amazon.com list it for $16.44 and $7.59 for the Kindle Edition. A worthwhile investment in your appreciation of the U.S. This 2005 book was published by Hill and Wang, New York, NY.

One of the most personally important books I've read.

Milt Gross can be reached for corrections, harassment, or other purposes at lesstraveledway@roadrunner.com.

Milton M. Gross Copyright 2014


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