John Adams on Thomas Paine
Cathleen Kaveny August 16, 2010 - 3:10pm
Adams wasn't a big fan of Paine--envying his fame while worrying about his radical democratic ideals. And he objected to Paine's increasingly pugnacious deism.When he wanted to be, Adams was capable of what today would be seen as the highest level of snark. Here's his comment on the title of Paine's The Age of Reason:I am willing you should call this the Age of Frivolity, as you do, and would not object if you had named it the Age of Folly, Vice, Frenzy, Brutality, Daemons, Bonaparte, Tom Paine, or the Age of the Burning Brand from the Bottomless Pit, or anything but the Age of Reason. I know not whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs or the last thirty years than Tom Paine. There can no severer satyr on the age. For such a mongrel between pig and puppy, begotten by a wild boar on a bitch wolf, never before in any age of the world was suffered by the poltroonery of mankind, to run through such a career of mischief. Call it then the Age of Paine.Oh, snap!
About the Author
Cathleen Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor in the Theology Department and Law School at Boston College.