What a Paine.

Have you ever seen a painting of Thomas Paine? Sometimes, I wish Photography had been invented way before it was. I think it would be really great to see a photo of Paine, or George Washington, or Buddha, or a hundred other people before its invention in 1826. But I digress.

Thomas Paine had a nice face in all his paintings. He just looked like a really sweet guy.

I noticed, because, today is his birthday. On that January 29, way back in 1736, his Mom, Frances (née Cocke) Pain gave birth too little Tommy. Across the pond in Thetford, Norfolk, England. Hey, I wonder if that is where Norfolk Terriers came from originally? I love Norfolks. Maybe the Paine family had a little Norfolk named Skippy Paine, or something. I can see it now, running around their little cottage.

Anyway. His Dad’s name was Joseph and he was a Quaker. His mother an Anglican. Not that it matters, but that’s what they were.

He was, as we say now, a motivational speaker. You know, like that big tall guy named Tony. The one with the real long horse face. Ughh. To think of his name right now. Tony Robbins. That’s it. A motivational speaker, is what I think Thomas Paine was.

He certainly inspired a lot of new American Patriots in 1776, and before. He encouraged them to declare independence from Britain. But he wasn’t so much of a speaker as he was a writer. He printed two highly influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution. And as such, he is considered the “voice of the American Revolution,” and unquestionably, one of the “Founding Fathers” of the United States.

Back then, things were tough. The American rebels had a long haul in front of them. And while they all had “some idea” of what the cause was, they did not have social media, Twitter or Instagram, to keep the network going. So they relied on newspapers, and pamphlets. And. Virtually every rebel read — or listened to someone reading — Paine’s powerful pamphlet, which was titled “Common Sense.” It was, back then, an all-time best-selling American paper.

In it, Paine wrote a lot of motivational words. And those words crystallized the demand for independence from Great Britain. Rebellion. His other pamphlet, called “The American Crisis” (1776–1783). It was popular too.

But “Common Sense” was the Biggie. In fact, it was incredibly influential. Our good Patriot and would-be President, John Adams said: “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain”.

There is a lot about his life. He did a great deal of good during the American Revolution. He was also immersed in the French Revolution. But there were other things, like his imprisonment in France during that time. He put a lot of blame on George Washington for this, saying that GW didn’t come to his aid.

Nonetheless, he eventually returned to the United States and stayed pretty involved in things here.

On the morning of June 8, 1809, Paine died, aged 72. He died in Greenwich Village, in New York City. There is a little plaque up there, which says that he died there. Or so I am told.

But after he died, he was dug up and moved around a bit. First to a Quaker Cemetery in New Rochelle. But there was something about his last will, and the Quakers would not allow him to be buried in their graveyard.

So, eventually, he came to rest under a walnut tree on his farm.

But here is the big kicker to the story. In 1819, and English journalist dude named William Cobbett, decided he was going to dig up Thomas Paine and take him back to England for a proper burial on his native soil. I guess back then, if you had a shovel, you could did a hole to China, if you wanted. Or, dig up a dead guy.

And that is exactly what the guy did. Cobbett took him back to England. Except, he never gave him the official burial. Never quite got around to it, I guess. But he hung on to Paine’s bones. He kept them, maybe in the kitchen drawer, right below the ladles and spatulas. Anyway, Cobbett died some 20 years later.

And after Cobbett’s death, guess what got misplaced? There is no confirmed story about what happened to Thomas Paine after that. The bones disappeared. However, there have been a lot of people who have claimed throughout the years to own parts of Paine’s remains, such as his skull and right hand.

It just doesn’t seem right that a guy with such a nice face should go out that way. No bones about it.


“No thief, however skillful, can rob one of knowledge, and that is why knowledge is the best and safest treasure to acquire.”
― L. Frank Baum, The Lost Princess of Oz


“I cannot teach anybody anything. I can only make them think”
― Socrates


“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
― Isaac Asimov