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Happy Birthday Tom

Old_tomToday is the 271st birthday of the greatest political pamphleteer in history, Thomas Paine. He was born in Thetford, Norfolk on 29th January 1737. He was instrumental in forging the institutions of two of the most important free nations; France and the U.S.A. Not bad for a corset-maker, though his countrymen in England might wish he had never travelled, but wrought his magic at home instead.

Paine is admired by modern leftists. So much so that Michael Foot is the President and the 2nd Viscount Stansgate the Vice-President of the Thomas Paine Society (of which I am a humble member). They are personally worthy (however much I disagree with their politics) of the association with Tom, but they should resign from the present authoritarian manifestation of the Labour Party, rather than contaminate his memory by association with such trash.

As the quotations in my sidebar indicate, Tom was far from his modern admirers' foolish belief in the essential goodness of the state. They will argue (with some cause) that he pioneered the concept of social security, but I suspect his contempt for modern welfarism would have been immense. It is is one thing to cushion mens' misfortunes; it is quite another to sink them in a swamp of dependence.

Perhaps the greatest hubris of my life was to take his name as my nom de blog. My only excuse is that I admire the man. Even more I admire the sheer virile force of his writing. I know that my own efforts can never be so good, nor have such effect. I can only urge any reader who has not read his works to do so. In his pungent words - laced with contempt for all oppressors - you will hear the authentic voice of a free man.

Tom did not believe in conventional religion. He was spurned by his fellow-Americans for that and - in consequence - for a long time received no credit for his leading role in making the United States. It would infuriate him to be imagined looking down on us from heaven (or up at us from hell). Throughout the free world, however, his spirit lives. That one man could, by rational argument, change history remains a message of hope to all.

Happy birthday, Tom.

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