Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine by Laurent Dabos / Oil on canvas, c.1792 / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

 

One Life: Thomas Paine, The Radical Founding Father

August 7, 2009 - November 29, 2009

This "One Life" exhibition, is devoted to Thomas Paine (1737-1809) whose pamphlet "Common Sense" fired up Americans to get on with a declaration of independence and whose exhortation, "These are the times that try men's souls," General Washington read to his dispirited troops. The story begins in Philadelphia where Paine arrived in 1774, continues through his tumultuous years in England where his anti-monarchy diatribe, the "Rights of Man" brought charges of seditious libel and in revolutionary France where he barely escaped the guillotine. Paine, the author of "The Age of Reason"—a bold attack on organized religion—returned to America in 1802 to find himself scorned by his old associates and much of the public. He died in poverty, his bones were later stolen and dispersed, but his words have resounded down through the ages.