“The Tragedy of Thomas Paine” and Other Uplifting Tales at the COA


On Wednesday, June 7 at 10 am, join University of Maryland historian Richard Bell at the Council on Aging for a program entitled “The Tragedy of Thomas Paine.” The Council on Aging is actually billing him as “Tom” Paine–if you ask me (and you didn’t), he does not seem like a “Tom” but rather a “Thomas”, and I must admit to wanting to show up to the presentation just to question this. And yet I will behave and only say that Mr. Paine makes me sad with his brilliant beginnings and tragic end. Also I will mention that we would not have been friends because wow, he could talk. Have you read his passage “These are the times that try men’s souls?” Wowza. Just sum it up with “Tories are a mess and I’m not one, and let’s chuck the Brits.” Done.

Okay, moving on before you all surmise that I have no patience with Thomas Paine. Does anyone remember the good old days of Wax Museum at Field School? Fifth graders were assigned a character of the Revolution, memorize a speech or information about that person, dress up in colonial garb and on one night only, the halls of Field were filled with colonials and the Marquis de Lafayette, etc etc. Honestly, it was better and a great deal quieter than Hamilton, but apparently the schools don’t do it anymore. The Tragedy of the Wax Museum Demise.

What is my point here? The owlets were assigned Thomas Paine and Nathan Hale. You’ve got my general feels about Mr. Paine, and Nathan Hale is quite famous for being a schoolteacher turned incompetent spy who was caught by the Brits on his very first undercover assignment and hanged the next day. He is remembered only because he had the foresight to not say something like “oops” or “darn,” but “I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country.” And of course historians have called into question whether or not he actually said those words, and really the poor kid (aged 21 at death) should really just be allowed one small victory in the footnote of time.

An owlet at the Thomas Paine cottage in New Rochelle–with a Paine reenactment vest


Well, this has gone off the rails as usual. Come learn about Thomas Paine, about his cottage in New Rochelle, New York, which we have actually visited and where my son was given a Thomas Paine dress-up vest by a wonderful tour guide. There’s a really good hibachi place in New Rochelle too though it’s probably not historic. Just kidding, there will be little or no mention of New Rochelle.

Here’s the official write-up from the COA:

“When Tom Paine, the author of Common Sense, died in June 1809, only a dozen people came to his funeral. This program examines Paine’s meteoric rise to celebrity status during the American Revolution and his equally dramatic fall from grace in the decades afterward. Once lionized as our most relatable and revolutionary founding father, Tom Paine died a pariah, too radical and uncompromising for the cautious new country he had called into being. “

University of Maryland Richard Bell is one of the most popular speakers at the COA so call now to reserve your spot. Weston COA, Community Center, 20 Alphabet Lane. Call the COA at 781-786-6280 to register. 

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