Thomas Paine

William Sharp (1749–1824), after George Romney
Engraving, 1793

National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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When Paine posed for George Romney during the summer of 1792, he had hopes that Rights of Man would do for England what Common Sense had done for America and was exhilarated by its distribution among the lower classes. His supporters, grumbled Hannah More, one of those who gave answer to Paine, “load asses with their pernicious pamphlets and . . . get them dropped, not only in cottages, and in highways, but into mines and coal-pits.”

The original oil painting has been lost, but this engraving by William Sharp fast became the most familiar image of Paine. Both Romney and Sharp were among Paine’s circle of radical English reformers.

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