Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Book review: Thomas Paine and the Promise of America

TitleThomas Paine and the Promise of America
AuthorHarvey J. Kaye
Tagsthomas paine, non-fiction, american revolution, history
Your reviewKaye's book includes a biography of Thomas Paine, and an assessment of his life in the context of the American Revolution, but also tracks his influence in America from his time to the present.

Without Paine's Common Sense, the American Revolution may not have happened. He took a vague thought of many, the possibility of revolution, and clarified why it was possible and necessary. More, he created a vision of democracy that has inspired so many ever since. Paine was from a working class background, unlike most of the Founding Fathers, and was more trusting that the working class could and should be given political power in a democracy. For that reason he has never been a favorite of conservatives, who generally wanted power limited to an elite, and has inspired radicals ever since.

In fact the latter part of the book is basically a history of radicals in America from Paine's time forward. I find that fascinating, as I've always been interested in various radicals. They were the ones demanding the end of slavery, the expansion of the electorate, the equality of women, fair wages and working conditions, and so much more. I think I was a radical in a previous life - though I don't know much about her, I've always been drawn to Emma Goldman, for example. I don't approve of violence, now, but I understand the desperation that can lead to it.

This history does show the influence on history that a single individual can have, Fascinating read.
PublicationHill and Wang (2006), Paperback, 336 pages
Publication date2006
ISBN0809093448 / 9780809093441

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