Thomas Payne (1737 – 1809) was born an Englishman, and became one of the founding fathers of the United States. He argued for American Independence in his pamphlet Common Sense (1776)which he boldly proclaimed as having been written by an Englishman.
Payne was a staunch supporter of the French Revolution, and wrote Rights of Man, defending human rights. This work was considered seditious by the British government. Payne was tried in absentia and convicted. He was imprisoned in Paris by Robespierre, and later managed to return to the United States, by claiming to be an American citizen. But in America too he was taken prisoner, abandoned, he felt, by George Washington. In his book, The Age of Reason, he was harshly critical of Christianity by which he meant any traditional religion. He regarded all scriptures as fabrications by clever people, with no truth to them.
An interesting statement in Common Sense reads very strange today:
“The debt we may contract doth not deserve our regard if the work be but accomplished. No nation ought to be without a debt. A national debt is a national bond; and when it bears no interest, is in no case a grievance. Britain is oppressed with a debt of upwards of one hundred and forty millions sterling, for which she pays upwards of four millions interest. And as a compensation for her debt, she has a large navy; America is without a debt, and without a navy; yet for the twentieth part of the English national debt, could have a navy as large again. The navy of England is not worth at this time more than three millions and a half sterling.”
July 14, 2001