Thomas Paine

John Wesley Jarvis (1781–1840)
Oil on canvas, c. 1805

National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; gift of Marian B. Maurice (1950.15.1)

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Upon his return to America in 1802, Paine took up residence in New York. For five months in 1806–7 he lived in a house in New York City with the young artist John Wesley Jarvis, who found him to be “one of the most pleasant companions I have met with for an old man.” Others remembered Paine as “a disgusting egotist, rejoicing most in talking of himself.”

In New Rochelle (where Paine had been awarded a confiscated Loyalist farm for his services during the Revolution) he was kept from voting because the local official did not consider him to be an American citizen. As he lay dying, his wish to be buried in Quaker ground was turned down. Jarvis, who painted Paine’s portrait, later wrote under it, “A man who devoted his whole life to the attainment of two objects—rights of man, and freedom of conscience—had his vote denied when living, and was denied a grave when dead.”

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