Happy birthday, Thomas Paine! Today, we celebrate the man who wrote “These are the times that try men’s souls” and sparked a revolution with his fiery pamphlets. But let’s be real, Paine was more than just a political theorist. He was a straight-up badass.
First of all, the man was a master of the rhetorical burn. In “The Rights of Man,” Paine took on the British monarchy and aristocracy with lines like, “Nature hath implanted in our breasts a love of others, a sense of duty to them, a moral instinct, in short, which prompts us irresistibly to feel and to succour their distresses.” Ouch. The royal family must have felt that one.
But Paine wasn’t just a master of the written word. He was also a master of the dramatic exit. After the French Revolution turned violent, Paine found himself imprisoned and facing execution. But instead of cowering in fear, Paine wrote a letter to the French National Assembly declaring, “I am a citizen of the world and I have no country.” Damn, Paine. That’s some serious attitude.
And let’s not forget that Paine was a true innovator. He was one of the first to use the term “United States” to refer to the colonies and he proposed a progressive income tax long before it became a reality. But perhaps Paine’s greatest legacy is his belief that ordinary people have the power to shape their own destiny. As he wrote in “Common Sense,” “The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind.”
But let’s be real, Paine had his fair share of flaws. He could be stubborn, divisive, and he had a tendency to rub people the wrong way. He was also a bit of a wild card, jumping from one cause to the next without much forethought. But hey, no one’s perfect.
So cheers to you, Thomas Paine. You may not have been the most popular guy in the room, but you were definitely the most interesting. And thanks to you, we have a nation built on the belief that all men are created equal and have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Happy birthday, you revolutionary badass.