Thomas Paine was one of the greatest advocates of freedom in history and his Declaration of the Rights of Man, first published in 1791, is the cornerstone of his reputation.
Christopher Hitchens demonstrates how Thomas Paine’s book forms the philosophical framework for the United States of America.
Hitchens covers Paine’s life from his early days working as an excise man in England before moving to America where he made influential friends and enemies and where he lit the fire that caused the Americans to overthrow their colonial power.
Moving to France, Paine became influential in their revolution too, although he almost fell victim to The Terror of Robespierre’s police. A careless gaoler marked his door with the sign that the occupant was to be executed, but luckily for Paine the door was open at the time, and so the mark appeared on the inside where no one could see it. Paine survived and was released and ensured his safety by staying with the American ambassador to France, a certain James Monroe, later to become 5th President of the USA.
Paine moved back to America and suggested to then President Thomas Jefferson that he purchase Louisiana, which of course is what happened a few years later, although Paine was hoping that the land would be worked by hard-working and thrifty German immigrants plus black families from other states who could purchase their own land there. Unfortunately, the sugar industry interests triumphed and slavery was introduced here too, meaning there were more slave states than free states, making a future civil war almost certain.