Tea Parties and Thomas Paine

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I recently read Made in America by Bill Bryson, which was a fantastic book about how the English language in the US has evolved. As a lover of US history, I relished Bryson’s inclusion of rich nuggets of trivia and minutiae that reminded me of AP American History class.

One of the best was the section on Thomas Paine. Every child learns about him and his “Common Sense” pamphlet that spread like wildfire. What most kids don’t know is that “Common Sense” was his only success as a writer, most of his ideas were idiotic, and he was a very dirty man.

How dirty? Bryson noted a contemporary writing that he was “so neglectful in his person that he is generally the most abominably dirty being on the face of the earth.

Founding Father John Adams didn’t have very nice things to say about him either, saying he was “a poor, ignorant, malicious, short-sighted, crapulous man.” What a fantastic word, crapulous, meaning sick from excessive indulgence in liquor.

Tea Partiers, take note. This man, Thomas Paine, which you hold as a rallying symbol, isn’t all he’s cracked up to be. He’s dirty, ignorant, and so crapulous that you may want to consider a different mascot.

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