Thomas Paine: Apostle of Liberty

Thomas Paine: Apostle of Liberty

Harlow Giles Unger
Show Date
October 10, 2021
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It has become almost cliché to note that “the pen is mightier than sword.” Years before this aphorism entered the popular imagination, however, it was John Adams who exclaimed, “Without the pen of Paine, the sword of Washington would have been wielded in vain.” Prior to the American Revolution, the sword tended to have the upper hand – with the strongest Kings and Tyrants justifying their power on the basis of force and divine right, not lofty principles like equality and liberty for all. Thomas Paine may not be enshrined in any monuments in Washington D.C., but the other more cherished founders saw the gifted pamphleteer as one of the key players in the American Revolution, and the subsequent upheaval of monarchies around the world.

In his recent biography of the “Apostle of Liberty,” historian Harlow Giles Ungers quotes John Adams again, asserting:

“I know not whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants or its affairs for the last thirty years than Tom Paine. Call it then the Age of Paine.”

So how did this “father to the founding fathers” end up as a relatively obscure historical figure, known almost exclusively by his early pamphlet, “Common Sense”? Unger joins me this Sunday to explore the full, fascinating story of Paine’s life, prolific writings, his travels, and his prominent role in the French Revolution.

Thomas Paine and the Clarion Call for American Independence is the latest in the long line of Unger’s highly readable biographies of America’s founders. Much like the subject of his book, Unger writes in a way that is accessible to all audiences – from the uneducated layperson to the scholar of American history alike. Don’t miss the in-depth exploration of the man whose writings roused Washington’s soldiers to victory across the Delaware on Christmas morning.


Notes for Thomas Paine