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tv   Rise and Fall of Thomas Paine  CSPAN  January 1, 2022 12:00pm-1:26pm EST

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be received before january 20th, 2022, for competition rules, tutorials, or just how to get started, visitor website, as student kim .org. cspan's american history, tv continues now and you can find a full schedule for the weekend on your program guide more at .. >> professor of history at the university of maryland. he has a b.a. from the university of cambridge and a ph.d. from harvard. he has won more than a dozen
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teaching awards including the 2017 university system of maryland board of regents' faculty award for excellence in teaching which is the highest honor for teaching faculty in the maryland state system. in addition, fellowships at cambridge and the library of congress and is the recipient of the 2018 national endowment of the humanities public scholar award and the 2021 andrew carnegie fellowship. he is author of the book "stolen: five boys kidnapped into slavery and their astonishing odyssey home," and this book was a finalist for the 2020 george washington prize and the 2020 harriet tubman prize. dr. bell is trustee at the maryland center of history and cull crur and a -- culture and a fellow of the historical society. it is a delight to have him back for another program, and so
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without further delay, please welcome dr. richard bell. welcome, rich. >> thank you, mary. i hope you can see and hear me okay. i am going to share my screen now. that might just take a couple of seconds to get ready. so let's get cracking. when thomas jefferson met thomas paine in paris in 1787, he begged him to sit for a portrait. jefferson collected portraits of celebrated men, and in 1787 there were few men as celebrated as tom paine. the author of "common sense," the 46-page pamphlet that had capitalized the the independence movement and overthrown the british monarchy in the colonies. paine agreed to be painted, and jefferson hung the little portrait in a private place on the walls of monticello, his house in virginia. that was 1787.
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now fast forward 40 years to 1828. thomas jefferson is dead. his family are selling off his possessions. when the auctioneers dig out tom paine's portrait from the bottom of a box, they find his canvas torn and battered. there are knife holes through tom paine's eyes. there are stab marks in his chest as if some children in jefferson's family had been allowed to vandalize it. the fought of tom paine's painting is, i think, an apt metaphor for tom paine's own extraordinary life. the man toasted around the world in the 1770s and 1780s as the hero of the american revolution ended his days as a
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discredited pariah, unceremoniously cast aside. the fate of that painting at monticello is also our first clue that thomas paine has never sat comfortably in the pantheon of america's founding fathers. a working class immigrant and sometime manual laborer, paine sticks out from the rest like a sore thumb. famously plainspoken but devilishly smart, paine was far more radical and ideological than jefferson or any other leaders of the american revolution. and as a radical, he had a lot to say. basically self-taught, paine went toe to toe with a generation of american, british and french intellectuals and statesmen staking out very
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public and massively controversial positions on republicanism, on democracy, on social justice, on religious freedom and on human rights. paine's unwavering beliefs and unwavering commitment to speaking bluntly about those beliefs and directly made him far more enemies in his life than friends. and what the fate of his painting implies, paine's fall from public favor in the 1790s and 1800s was dramatic and dizzying. paine's widely publicized critiques of the british monarchy, of the french aristocracy, of george washington, of jesus and of the bible all brought down the last of the dominant classes upon
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him. concerted smear campaigns on both sides of the atlantic succeeded in turning the hero of the american revolution into the most despised public figure in the 18th century world. those attacks on him were devastating. and the story of paine's demise and his death in 1809 is, to my mind, one of the most tragic of any public figure in that period. along the way he would be spied on, spat at, shot at, tried and convicted in england, imprisoned and nearly executed in france and then defamed and denounced in the united states. it's an astonishing story. partnership's life pulsated with risk and novelty and drama and
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surprise at every turn, so let's get stuck in. tom paine was english. he was born in nor norfolk in eastern england in 1737. his father was a corset maker, and he and young tom rarely saw eye to eye. like a lot of young men with difficult dads, tom left home when he was 19, set out for london. he was tall and slim, soft-spoken, a bit embarrassed about his country boy accent. he'd been raised as a quaker like his dad, and that group's interest in commerce, their concern for political and social justice and their turn the other cheek morality surely rubbed off on him. but in london he drifted away from quakerrism, dabbling in
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anglicanism and in metavism to other types of protestant christianity though he found no permanent home or religious community. finish money was tight -- money was tight. and after a while paine did what a lot of ore poor folk in london ended up doing when times got hard, he signed up to become a sailor. he was about to embark on his first voyage on a ship called the terrible when his dad arrived on the docks to talk him out of what would have been a life-shortening career choice. being a sailor is dangerous work. paine left london soon afterwards moving to the town of lewis on england's south coast, and there he got involved in a debating group who called themselves the headstrong club. and he even scribbled out a few political, satirical and
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anti-monarchical pieces for the local paper there, sometimes signing those pieces with a pen name, with a pseudonym. try and guess what his pseudonym was. it was common sense. to pay the bills, paine tried his hand at shop keeping, corset making like his dad, teaching, being a tax collector, and and he did finally go to sea as a sailor. but in all of these different occupations, tom paine was an unrelenting failure. his personal life was not much better. he lost his first wife in childbirth, and he divorced his second wife. by 1774, paine was 37 years old, and yet he had little to show for himself. he was bankrupt p and suffering from tie typhoid. when he had met benjamin
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franklin back when he was still in london, franklin had encouraged this struggling young man to go and start a new life in the american colonies. in 1774 tom paine did just that, clutching a very brief, cursory letter of introduction from franklin who barely knew him. paine booked passage to philadelphia, turning his back on the country, england, that had brought him nothing but despair and disappointment. paine staggeredded off the ship in philadelphia half dead, and he didn't know a soul. when his health finally returned fully six weeks later, tom paine set about reinventing himself. he added an e to the end of his last name, becoming paine, a
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signal to himself as much as anyone else that he wanted to start fresh. he began contributing a few column inches to a local newspaper, and within a few months he was able to use that brief experience as well as that cursory letter of introduction from ben franklin, philly's favorite son, to garner a job in philadelphia editing a new gentlemen's magazine there at a salary of 50 pounds a year. and it was, i think, -- his contribution to this magazine, this pennsylvania magazine that poor paine -- tom paine would hone the skills that he would later use to write "common sense." think about it. editing a gentlemen's magazine, a literary magazine, immersed tom paine -- a newcomer -- in
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the world of colonial politics. editing this magazine also gave tom paine his first dedicated set of readers, a public, a reading public whose opinion he soon learned how to manipulate. in fact, one of paine's favorite tactics as editor and lead contributor to this pennsylvania magazine was to print articles in it to -- that seems to be about some harmless subject. but on closer inspection, it turned out to be about politics. so, for instance, in a piece he published in the pennsylvania magazine called an easy method to prevent the increase of bugs, he slowly revealed that his advice to house owners on how to exterminate their unwelcome visitors is, of course, really an analogy that compares the
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british army marching through england at the time to bugs. in fact, the pennsylvania magazine was filled with anti-british barbs and quips like that one, some of them more carefully disguised than the others. and this makes sense. remember who paine is. paine had turned on england long ago. the careers and marriages he'd made there had caused him only ruin and regret. galvanized by what had happened at lexington and concord in april of 1775, tom paine would write "common sense" to persuade ordinary americans that they should declare their independence from britain. as he was writing that pamphlet in the fall of 1775, tensions with britain were escalating
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quickly. popular emotions had been aroused not only by the 1773 tea act and the 1774 commerce act that followed it, but more recently by the battles at lexington and concord and then at bunker hill. there was a lot of anger and confusion in the air as he was writing. though to be clear, no one was talking yet about independence. not until tom paine's panel pamphlet -- pamphlet burst on the scene. so tom paine is going to be one of the first people to make a very public argument that all colonial grievances should be focused on achieving independence, not reconciliation, not better terms and conditions, but independence. so let's spend some time now examining how tom paine builds the case for independence in the
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pages of that pamphlet, "common sense." and bear in mind that partnership's great gift was fos for language, and he designed each paragraph to be read aloud to other people. the sort of rhetorical tricks for the best preacher of the day. even if paine offers up a secular and driven view that human beings have the power to better themselves and to change the world. but remember, the change that paine wants his readers to make is to break with britain now and forever. and he makes independence, something previously unthinkable and improbable, he makes independence seem suddenly imminent, necessary and urgent. what's more clever about how
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paine writes in this famous pamphlet is that the arguments he makes are not self-evident truths. what he says is actually not common sense at all. he just tells you it is. in fact, he's able to make you rethink what you thought you knew, and he uses the plainspoken language of an outraged -- to do so. take one of partnership's very first arguments in "common sense." i think it's simply outrageous. a world in which kings and princes run almost every square foot of western europe, tom paine declares all kings and princes, all of them, to be illegitimate and despotic and demands that all of them be swept away. paine denies the heritage of their bloodlines and calls them
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all a band of power-hungry ruffians who sit on thrones simply because an ancestor of theirs killed the previous dynasty of kings. tom partnership calls william the conqueror, one of the most famous english kings of the previous centuries, a bastard from france. which is pretty rude. now, as good americans, you're a few steps ahead of me because you have all noted that, well, tom paine's not exactly lying, is he? monarchies, of course, do descend generation by generation from original acts of violence, insubordination and, yes, the histories of england, france and other countries are littered with invasions and conquests in which one king is simply killed or removed by an upstart young man who thinks he can do better.
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but so what if paine is technically correct about all this? remember, remember in the 1770s when he is writing, kings and princes are all the western world really knows. no one can yet imagine a realistic alternative to governing large countries and their growing empires. kings at least provide stability. kings father princes, and those princes become the next kings. this is a system that works. and it's worked for hundreds of years. so to suggest that colonists should break with the king of england and set out on their own requires a great deal of confidence. i think in spanish the word is cajones, right? it requires a great deal of confidence. in fact, paine's cajones are so
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big -- [laughter] that he doesn't limit himself to the simple treason of attacking king george. no. paine attacks all kings as ill legitimate. in fact, he doesn't even bother to mention king george iii by the name, referring to him in passing as the royal brute. bold stuff from tom paine. or take another major argument from "common sense." with fighting already underway at lexington and concord and bunker hill, paine turns the readers of "-- tells the readers of "common sense" that they should not make peace with england. reconciliation now, he says, is a dangerous doctrine. really? in the opening months of 1776, did any sane person really think
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that a tiny colonial militia could ever beat and banish the most powerful navy of the world with a significant army? it is madness to think that. finish so why not make peace? based in the knowledge that all the colonists' grievances against england would eventually evaporate as time passed. why not make peace safe in the knowledge that the colonists' departments would eventually get paid -- debts that this hated king would shortly die, and his own unpopular cabinet would eventually be forced from power? why not make peace? patch things up? wait it out? because paine won't let you see the problem like that. paine, in "common sense," puts the burden of proof elsewhere,
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not upon the colonists to prove why they should be ine -- independent. he puts the burden of proof on the english to prove why americans should stay shackled to them for even a second longer. bold stuff from tom paine. so in these ways, "common sense" is a sort of declaration of independence, by which i mean it's a new kind of argument that denies all precedents by smacking the rulebook about how you make arguments out of the opponent's hands. every previous thing fought or said in favor of continuing on as dependent colonies. in the pages of "common sense," tom paine doesn't fight any classical authors, he doesn't quote people who disagree with him, he doesn't mention any constitutional theories about what is possible and what is not
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possible. paine won't stand for any of that. we have it in our power, he writes, to begin the world again i think you will start to see and i hope you can start to see much of partnership's persuasive power rests not exactly in what he says, but in the way he says it. for instance, paine works hard to convince readers that the colonists are caught up in an end epic struggle. not a small, silly domestic dispute about taxes and tea that will soon blow over, no. paine tells readers of "common sense" that the cause of america is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. with independence paine argues america will become a bright
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beacon for a republican government whose light will spread across the world. for god's sake, he says, let us come to final separation. because the birthday of the new world is at hand. and, folks, who doesn't like birthdays? independence, paine argues, is just common sense. to partnership, there is something -- to paine, there is something geographicically and politically unnatural about america's dependence on a distant island for government. to be always running 3 or 4,000 miles with a tale or petition, then waiting 4 or 5 months for an answer which, when obtained, requires 5 or 6 months to respond to it. he looked upon it as folly and childishness, paine writes. and who could argue with logic
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like that? it's impossible. like anied good self-help book -- and "common sense" is a self-help book -- paine concludes "common sense" by telling colonists how to take the next step. america, he says, should abandon britain and establish its own continental, republican form of government, a government that should be elective, representative and accountable. to do all this, paine suggests the colonists write a proper declaration are of independence, a manifesto that would summarize, as he put it, the miseries we've endured and the peaceful methods which we have ineffectively used to seek redress. paine even posed what he called a continental conference to discuss and decide the precise
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future form of government for this new country, a country he christened the united states of america. and he was not shy about sharing his own preference for this country's new republican government that should embrace d assemblies and a rotating presidency to be chosen from among members of this congress, he suggested. paine drafted this pamphlet, "common sense," in the fall of 1775, and it first appeared in philadelphia book shops on january the 10th, 1776, priced at two shillings, the price that paine thought was too high. nevertheless, it found plenty of readers right away. that first printing sold out within two weeks. printers rushed to print more and turn a quick profit while
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demand was high. in all, we know that 25 editions of "common sense" were published in 13 american cities and towns, helping it to become the best selling pamphlet of the year. and its effect on people that read it was widely described as dramatic. by mar of 177 -- march of 1776, a report was making the rounds in britain that back in america "common sense" is realize to all ranks -- read to all ranks, and as many who read it, so many become converted where perhaps an hour before they were violent against the idea of independence. so what they're saying is the reports from america that people who want nothing to do with the cause of independence are reading this pamphlet and suddenly and immediately and decisively turning in favor of independence, that its effect is
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that powerful. like a drug. paine's friend, benjamin rush, later recalled that the pamphlet's effect was sudden and extensive upon the american mind. it was read by public men, repeated in clubs, spowpted in schools -- spouted in schools, and in one instance delivered from the pulpit instead of a sermon by a clergyman in connecticut. noticeably, phrases lifted from "common sense" taliban to turn up in -- began to turn up in all sorts of petitions written by ordinary americans with now calls for independence. and throughout the colonies, letters to newspapers would quote "common sense." editors of those papers reprinted excerpts from "common sense," and hundreds of newspaper readers wrote in to praise the pamphlet's style and
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contents. who is the author of "common sense," asked a reader in rhode island. i can hardly refrain from adoring him. he deserves a statue of gold. tom paine, by the way, published anonymously at first. hence, the mystery, who is the author of "common sense." while "common sense" certainly spawned several rebuttals by loyalists, those rebuttals were no match for this pamphlet's brute but lyrical power. skeptics were eventually won over. john adams at first described "common sense" as a poor, ignorant, shortsighted, crapulous mess, as a piece of crap. but even john adams eventually had to acknowledge the panel
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fret's extraordinary -- pamphlet's extraordinary power. after the war was won, adams wrote without the author of "common sense," the -- [inaudible] indeed, this little 46-page pamphlet would soon push the members of the second continental congress to adopt independence as the fundamental objective of their escalating -- of britain. their july 1776 declaration are of independence owed an obvious department to "common sense." debt to common sense. though they had no hand in -- though paine had no hand in drafting the declaration because by then paine was no longer in pennsylvania. he had join ared the continental army on its march toward new york to try to capture that city from the british. but the british would soon put the continental army on the back
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foot, forcing them to retreat back across new jersey towards their headquarters in philadelphia. paine was with them as they advance ised forward -- advanced forward, paine was with them as they came back, working as an aide decamp throughout that dispiriting summer and fall campaign. it was as the continental army fell back to trenton that tom paine authored the first and most famous of the six essays known as the american crisis. these are the times that try men's souls. paine wrote that 3,000-word old to patriot fearlessness. the sunshine patriot9 will, in this crisis, shrink in the service of their cup.. -- of
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their country. deserves and love and thanks of man and woman. tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered. general washington ordered these stirring words to be read to his frost-bitten, exhausted troops as they made to retreat back across the delaware river into pennsylvania. by this time paine had left the army's ranks having served long enough to discover that he was thoroughly unsuited to a soldier's life. the american crisis essays cemented paine's reputation as a gifted polemicist and of the chief propagandist of the american independence movement. yet tom paine was broke having made precious little money from "common sense" or from any of the american crisis essays.
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so paine now took on several new writing jobs after returning to philly, none of which paid a fortune or gave him much satisfaction. the only bright spot in his life in these years came in 1784 when the state of new york awarded him a 300-acre farm in new rochelle in gratitude for his is services to the new nation, a farm that the state of new york had confiscated from a loyalist family that it had turn turned. a year later, at general washington's insistence, congress supplemented the gift with $3,000, providing this immigrant, former corset maker with a modest degree of financial security for the first time in his life. and with that financial
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independence, paine found the freedom to embark on a long, quixotic or strange campaign to get a single arch, iron bridge built across the -- [inaudible] river. the project that he hoped would kick start infrastructure modernization projects across the new nation. he went back and forth to england and france to look for funding and patrons for this bridge project. but, sadly, he turned up empty-handed each time. by the time he admitted that his 1791. by then paine was living in london once again and was vowing to renew his radicalism, resuming his writing career by penning a pamphlet that could do for the political consciousness of the british people what "common sense" had recently done for the american kohl justs.
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colonists. the first part of this new work, "the rights of man," the first part appeared on the shelves of british bookstores in april of 1791. dedicated to george washington, the hero of the american revolution, "the rights of man" attempt to stir in britain the same sort of revolutionary radicalism seen in america and in france. echoing his previous attacks on the monarchy and feudalal aristocracy, this new work, "the rights of man," dares british readers to embrace republicanism. come on in, the water's lovely. calling for british readers to install an elected head of state. an elected legislature. a written constitution.
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and a universal franchise for all adult men. radical stuff. like "common sense" before it, "rights of man," his new work, burned with outrage and sparkled with diamond-hard prose aimed at the sort of working people who usually do -- high politics. so in this new work the only work -- books he cited were the bible and the book of common prayer. now, there's a long tradition of republican dissent in england that goes back centuries. and paine's ideas in favor of a republic instead of the monarchy were in some ways quite derivative. it was paine's attempt to disseminate those decide to the masses in plain-spoken language that they could actually
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understand that made this new work, "the rights of man," so mow men momentous when it was published and so, of course, controversial. and "the rights of man" sold like gangbusters. 50,000 copies in the first three months in england alone. even the british prime minister found time to read it, and he confessed to a friend that paine was quite right. what am i to do? i'm the prime minister. as things are, if i were to encourage tom paine's opinions, i should have a bloody revolution on my hands. those fears of an english revolution soon escalated as more and more english readers began demanding the sorts of civil rights that hawaiian
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had -- paine had championed. and as news arrived in london over the beheadings in revolutionary france and the rise of -- there. determined to deliver that sort of radical leveling -- the english channels in france and turning the english working class into mobs spent on executing rich people, prime minister william pitt's administration now -- [inaudible] the homeland security laws to limit free speech rights. to imprison anyone who talked openly of challenging the king or parliament. i am for equality, one londoner shouted in a coffeehouse. he was promptly sent to prison for 18 months. for that speech act.
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and putt9's government -- pitt's government that had passed these laws went after tom paine himself, the author of "the rights of man," with all they had. pitt's government funded a smear campaign in the press that defamed tom paine as ugly, smelly and crude. he was a wife beater, impotenting in his marriage bed and having instead a fetish for having sex with cats. the papers published cartoons rendering tom paine as a three-headed, fire-breathing monster. and hundreds of letters to the editor -- many folks suspiciously identical in image -- denounced tom paine in the english papers as a liar, as a traitor and as a terrorist. mad tom, the british tabloids
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now called him. government agents trailed him wherever he went. and across the english country, astroturf crowds paraded tom paine's body in effigy, burning it in town squares. bugger off to france if you like their revolution so much, a writer in the times of london admonished. so in september of 1782, the now-57-year-old paine did just that, he buggered off to france sailing from england to france to escape the long arm of his majesty's government. three months later, in december, that british government took -- i'll start it again. three months later that british government put tom paine on
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trial in absentia on charges of seditious libel and, in his absence, they found him guilty. and in his absence, they sentenced him to exile after the fact. he'd already gone. paine would spend the next decade in france but would never return to the land of his birth. paine arrived in france armed with not one, but four letters of introduction from benjamin franklin who was well known in france. as a result, tom paine quickly gained entree to france's highest circles. almost immediately he took up a position representing calais in the revolutionary national assembly, a position to which he'd been elected months earlier in honor of his authorship of "the rights of man."
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but that did not go as expected. paine spoke little french, and he had trouble keeping up as the french revolution rapidly radicalized and accelerated. paine made the great mistake of speaking up in favor of sparing king louis the 16th from the guillotine, arguing instead that it would be humiliating enough to banish the king to exile in the united states. but that did not go over well in france. especially given paine's earlier critiques of the monarchy and inherited power. where is your boldnesses now, tom, the french said to him. as france was led into what we call the reign of terror, paine despaired. and then he picked up his pen. he drafted the first part of
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"the age of reason," the third great work which this man is still remembered today, and pleated that manuscript and got it to a printer only six hours before french police came to his door to drag him to a paris prison cell for his dissenting views, not radical enough. his third work, "the age of reason part i," is in some ways his masterpiece. an astonishing virtuoso denunciation of atheism which he saw as the lighter fuel for the most violent, most extreme and most uncontrollable excesses of this unfolding french revolution. in defense of religious faith, in the content of a french revolution run amok, paine wrote
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eloquently about how a loss of faith in god could extinguish human compassion, selflessness, morality, ethics, virtue and grace and could turn society into nothing but a gathering of beasts. this confession of the power of faith was a pretty mainstream view in the 1790s only really controversial in france itself because of the spread of atheism there over the past few years. kris chapty -- christianity, paine told readers, was the life blood of republican democracy. and the bible's old testament provided a set of useful commandments that could instill public and private ethics. paine also had praise for the new testament, describing jesus
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christ as a virtuous and amiable man who had preached social justice and paid for his convictions with his life. so far so good, right? the trouble was that paine kept going. "the age of reason" is controversial because of everything else that he had to say about christianity in particular and about organized religion in general. paine was not a fan. jesus christ, he wrote, was not denied. he was just a man. the bible, paine went on, was not the revealed word of god. it was just a book written by some priests. and as paine said, the bible was full of indecipherable readings,
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irrationalism and fab limb. like the beczar spirit of the talking sneak who -- [inaudible] eve who ends up eating the apple and destroying humanity. this sort of nonsense, paine said, were dangerous deceivers, institutions set up to terrify and end slave mankind -- enslavemankind rain monopolize power and profit. each of those churches accuses the other of unbelief. for my own part, i thinks believe all of them. i thinks believe all of them. so paine was clear that despite all of this he was not trying to deny the existence of god. on the contrary, paine wrote, i believe in one god and no more. and i hope for happiness beyond this life.
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i believe in the equality of man. i believe that religious duties consist in doing justice, loving mercy and endeavoring to make our fellow creatures happy. but i do not believe in the creed professed by the jewish church, by the roman church, by the greek church, by the protestant church, not by any church that i know of. my own mind is my own church. this, folks, is almost the dictionary definition of theism, a varietyty -- variety of spiritual belief that was common in both britain and america in the 1790s. and it's what we now call maybe intelligent design or something like that.
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edward given and thomas jefferson are also self-declaredtyists like -- deists like tom paine, though those other men only announced that fact in public to their highfalutin friends. but that's not tom partnership's style -- tom paine's style. paine, of course, used the pages of "the age of reason" to shout his deism from the rooftops of paris, using his gift for plain-spoken language and political turn of phrase to take that gospel to the masses. and he had all too much success. in britain sales of "the age of reason, part i" surpassed all records, in fact, breaking records set by "the rights of man" three years earlier. church leaders now denounced
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paine with acid and thunder. "the age of reason" attracted at least 50 rebuttals charging its author, tom paine, being with either an infidel, which is wrong, or a deist which is fair enough, or most ironically, an atheist. not even close. saying the same flooded the press not only in britain, but also america which was in the midst of a major evangelical revival at the time known to most of us as the second great awakening. all the while paine himself languished in an 8x10-foot cell on the ground floor of the luxembourg prison, a former royal palace in paris now
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re-- -- repurposed by french revolutionaries. there, by candlelight, tom paine passed the time scrawling out a sequel to the first part of "the age of reason." and he wrote quickly. one by one, guards led his fellow dissenting inmates to their executions. part two of "the age of reason" was still unfinished when the american ambassador in paris, james monroe, finally secured tom paine's release after ten long, terrifying months behind bars. paine had grown weak and ill in prison, ravaged by typhus, by fevers and by a festering wound that would not heal. so paine finished "the age of reason, part ii," in the
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ambassador's public residence publishing it in october 1795. though it shared many of the same big ideas, it is not a -- [inaudible] on part one. listening to the historian craig nelson describe it and its unfortunate effect on our thinking about paine and his legacy. part two of "the age of reason," craig nelson says, is a snide, sneering and obsessive rant that none of the first "age of reasons" miracle of the spiritual could be found in natural philosophy. if there's a reason for paine's reputation to be sullied beyond englishmen wanting monarchy and americans wanting christianity, it's the catastrophic rancor in "the age of reason, part ii." another example of the reign of terror's devastation of paine's
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psyche. but still tom paine has -- [inaudible] in the estimations of the citizens of the united states, his adopted homeland. while he convalesced at the ambassador's residence in paris, paine fired off a long open letter to his former friend, this gentleman, president george washington. and in that open letter, tom paine blamed george washington personally for failing to rescue him sooner from prison. and then tom paine kept going, accusing washington -- the father of the country -- of everything from risk management to corruption. paine said washington's military strategy during the revolutionar y war had been to do nothing. washington himself was selfish,
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friendless, indifferent, hypocritical and devoid of principle. in this poison pen letter which paine sent to washington on washington's birthday, found its way into the pages of the american press. readers there were rightly incense cents -- incentsed, and partnership's reputation as an american patriot was irreversibly damaged. until take seven more years -- it would take seven more years before the federal government invited tom paine to return to the united states. in the meantime, he convalesced. he watched the worst excesses of the french revolution burn themselves out and, of course, he wrote. he authored all sorts of things
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during his long retube ration -- recuperation at the american ambassador's residence, but one of the things he wrote deserves our attention now. the thing that i'm talking about is called "the gray injustice." paine if wrote it in 1795 and 1796. even though it is not nearly as well known as "common sense," "rights of man" or "age of reason," the idea is that agrarian justice have actually been incredibly influential, representing the first full scale, practical proposals to develop what in the 20th century would call to be -- come to be called the welfare state. written as a rebuttal of a famous english clergyman's sermon praising the division between rich and poor as a sign
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of god's was -- god's wisdom, "agrarian justice" by thomas paine proposes to lift the side of division by taxing the highest earners, investing heavily in a social safety net with the proceeds. paine imagines reforming the tax system and government spending priorities in britain and, by extension, in america and france or anywhere else. to provide seven basic entitlements which together might shield the nation's poorest, most vulnerable from the -- of market capitalism. let me show you what he had in mind. first he proposed grants of four pounds a year to help parents afford to send their children to school. second, he composed one-time
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payments of 15 pounds to everybody in the nation on their 21st birthdays. third, he posed much smaller one-time payments to newly married couples and further small payments for each child they birthed into the world. fourth, he proposed eliminating all taxes on poor people earning below a minimum annual income. fifth, he proposed a government-run back-to-work scheme that could find temporary employment for those out of work, that could provide room and board if needed. sixth, he proposed pensions of six pounds a year for seniors over the anal of 50 -- age of 50, ten pounds a year to those who made it to the age of 60. seventh, he proposed a one-time death benefit to surviving spouses to cover the cost of funerals. drawing on his experiences back in england of being a tax
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collector -- decades earlier, paine even costed all this out. he did the math. he demonstrated to readers of "agrarian justice" that this was quite inexpensive. and like all the -- [inaudible] paid for if the british parliament would implement a graduated income tax, put in place an estate tax on the largest fortunes, downsize the british military budget which was enormous. it would be worth it, pickup explained -- paine explained, almost giddy with excitement. all it would take would be a few pieces of new tax policy to rid great britain's streets of beggars and ragged and hungry children. and investing in the education of young people would pay back huge dividends in the longer
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term. a nation under a well-regulate ared government should permit none to remain uninstructed, paine wrote. it is monarchical and aristocratic government only that requires ignorance for its support. what i'm laying out here from the pages of "agrarian justice" is an extraordinary social justice manifesto for any 18th century person to imagine. and importantly, it is not proto-marxism. quite the contrary. it is a non-marxist critique of the free market that made no plans to nationalize the education system, no plans to post any limits on how much money or property anyone can acquire.
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paine simply insists that those with the most should modestly compensate those with the very least. still, partnership's ideas -- paine's ideas went nowhere at the time. his name was already mud in legislative circles in london, and he'd just insulted the president of the united states. neighbors who read "agrarian justice" -- and it was hardly the best seller that some of his past works had been -- dismissed paine's design for a world beyond want as a pernicious form of leveling leaving his blueprint for the 20th century architects of the modern welfare state in britain, france and new dole america to discover -- new deal america to discover for
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themselves. let's wrap up. tom paine says to america in 1802 -- sails to america after president john adams, one of his fearest critics, lost -- fiercist critics lost his re-election bid to thomas jefferson, a deist and a democrat like paine. but still, coming to america turned out to be a bitter homecoming. when paine disembarked in baltimore, the city's principal hotels refused to accommodate him. since he'd been away from america, radicalism had become a dirty word in america. the bloody excesses of the french revolution were in great part to blame. when the french revolution had begun back in 1789, many americans had at first welcomed it as a for struggle to their
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own. but after pierre began guillotining elites and conservatives in what became known as the reign of terror, many american patriot leaders turned coldly hostile towards the events unfolding in paris. .. >> and come back to bring you down the of the united states and kickstart the american way of terror. in the most of his conservative emanate enemies use pains
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famously religious beliefs to try to destroy his political reputation. newspapers written by editors, supported washington, john adams, the members of the federalist party called thomas paine and owing, broken in route to an brittle infidel and they call them him drunk and atheist, they called him an obscene old center. center almost killed thomas paine. and he made plans to set up in agriculture export business from america to europe. but it paralyzed his hands and making his mobility, and forcing them to seek care in new york
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instead. and in days, where i dared to take a walk around that manhattan, he still have friends and he had many admirers and he sat around watching people live in america, and new york particular was brought with tension and with risk. so whenever he was well enough he would retreat to his cottage outside of the city, and try to write. the subject now was politics and thomas paine to quickly to the task of testing john hamilton and the centralist party that led to a newspaper column after another. in defending jefferson in the democrat republicans come up with camping and of legacy.
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but to his great disgust, improved it to be utterly thankless work. i want jefferson himself, seemed to have held printed in high regard threat is like, jeffersons in the democrat republican party, regarded thomas paine as an embarrassment and he kept their distance from him and they did the best to disassociate themselves in the party from amanda they now regarded as a radically, stuff, with an electric hit that have conservatives and thomas paine had been from europe. and, thomas paine's last political tirade appeared in print on the 25th of august, 18 await. by then, there was not much of thomas paine to be left to be scared of, he could not keep
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food down anymore. many had incontinence in agonizing pain in his limbs and had tears and he woke up in his room, and he found himself alone and he had been, frightening began to scream, he was dying. and inquired hopefully by the prospect of being buried among the quakers the crusading christians in his houses he had grown up. but they refused. and so when thomas paine miserable decline, finally ended, and 8:00 a.m., june 8, 1809, is executives took him and set it up to, very desponding under a tree in the farm, once given to him by the state of new
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york, in creating the united states. but so much had happened since that part of the independence. in that form of his was almost deserted on the day of his burial, not a single political leader attended his funeral. only six people turned up. one was a french imminent housekeeper and another who did, was an american benjamin, and she later described with herself at the end of thomas paine's grave, he was thrown down on his coffin and telling her son, steady there, at the other end, we will witness a grateful
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america. and a week later, he was she benjamin, who paid the small grave stone into the earth on the spot, a grave stone inspection was, as simple as it was short, he said, thomas paine. columnist. >> that was great, and thank you so much. the stories amazing, what a wonderful talk. if you put in the screen share, i will give my documents here and there we go. we have been getting lots of good questions coming in. right in the very beginning as you are talking about the common sense, you show and showed us a pamphlet and at the bottom of it says, printed in bold by our
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mail, several ask who is this. well i am. [laughter] >> is there any connection. >> let me review here, r bell, 300 years ago so this is actually robert, no relation to me as far as i know and it he is a printer and a bookseller and nothing on third street in philadelphia if i remember correctly in his is one of the small number that survived it in the book sellers and printers in the time, and ben franklin's operation would've been another one and it is robert bell and who published the first edition but there's no copyright back in his competitors would buy a copy, turn it in a typesetting them for the round to compete against him and so robert bell
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is seriously trying to hold onto the early process and i'm going to tell you that with "common sense" , i teaching all my classes and i have this assignment that i do with the students which i'm very proud of and uses one of these amazing databases that we have now, we definitely did not when i was in school. that is digitize, the whole time of early american newspapers from this era and you can search them by key word is and any mention of "common sense" next to each other, they would be slammed by the software they just go through them and you can see you've used that phrase on blood contacts and i have an assignment where i tell my students, that the writers over the years have said that everyone in america read "common sense", it was almost
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universally read and people are trying to get the number of raters of "common sense" have speculated it is about 300,000 or something like that but no one actually wanted to prove that, they just asserted that it was read this widely so having students use this newspaper database, see what they can figure out about who actually read "common sense" and she we really believe that everyone rhetoric and we find it improve the some people didn't some people did not and so i have them think about where it is advertised, i have them think about how many bookstores that available in in what is price point is an it was a lot of money and how can you tell if two shillings is a lot of money or not a lot of money. and evidence in libraries and people allowed to people who cannot refer themselves they have to live with a newspaper database to find like literal breadcrumbs of information to
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help them build onto this question it i mentioned this mary because, everything i do with it in this assignment, the city 100 papers about this, and, serve as a printer have "common sense" as their with r bell. [laughter] , thank you and okay so the person presented and commenting that the genesis of thomas paine intense desire for american independence in opposition it in english monarchy, is a desire for a fresh start in a world and is a more than that entity of anything more to gain personally. >> yeah, of course is more than that and why do in the beginning is a personal stuff, personal stories in the way we interpret the world. thomas paine goes through a series of difficult moments in england it forcing him or
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pushing him eventually to leave england and that is a sign of how much he is not happy with his life in england. and that country and people in politics, with everything behind, lucky personally has made a break from prison. britton and it matters a great deal but certainly there is more to it than that. he will make some money from publishing "common sense", a nearly as much as you think, in part because everyone is looking at a publishing their own versions in assessing the profits of it but also because he published it relatively cheaply, after the first edition, he got the present half pretty and his profit margins go out right away and then he makes a very public show of when it is discovered that he is the author, is not actually the thing that he is the author, he
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is outed basically by people who think it that the discovery of this that he was the author will undermine the power of "common sense" it was not written by george washington are john adams and he embraces that had he said that no one has written for the past six was and guess what i have done with it, to the continental armies to get to the soldiers to where this winter which is not only an amazing peak are just are in the world before pr, it is also patriotic jester and also the confirmation that he is not properly nearly as much as you might think front "common sense", but of course the last point is that a time, when things are escalating rapidly, he is just coming to america in 1740, and sent that we should declare independence, he's going to market 34 and
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7035, when all the newspapers are full of lexington and concorde bunker hill, and one aggression it after another, so much frustration in the air, i think that is god path forward, a solution it for all americans but they should do that frustration which is turn it in a direct different direction as his contribution. he's not just doing it for his own gain and is getting political wings. >> thank you, what was his viewers on slavery in america and did he ever write anything on slavery by the rights of women. >> yeah, so, the two great questions. we do have some of his writings on the position of women it, although he wrote so many things anonymously that are not sure that he's the author of things that we think he is the author and some of these contentions about whether there accurately describing him to these from
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these anonymous pieces but those pieces, they're more of scribes to try often do have a sort of feminist rock on them to say he's pretty good on the women by the standards of a wise 18th century man. and thereupon the more radical feminist who would see him as to cautious freeman conservative pretty in and in 1792, the indications of the rights of the woman is a gym and it should have one it feminist radical been thomas paine is not that but for the record when it comes women, after the slavery, you would expect wouldn't you know, to see some of the same stuff, you expect him to be denouncing slavery is monstrous, immoral, unconstitutional and un-american etc. etc. i personally am not aware of any time when he wrote about
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slavery, recorded out just seems to be like a blind spot to him. maybe i'm just not looking in the right places or maybe he did write about it and i didn't read that but i often it see that is writing it in philadelphia, in 1770s, and philadelphia enslaved population is at a historic low in the evolutionary years. i have been slavery in philadelphia and in pennsylvania since the 1680s but is never been on the scale of the south carolina more virginia and so, it just had a different texture to agricultural slavery, plantations and so, there are plenty of you know, kind hearted god fearing people who call and
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other injustices in villanova do not see slavery in philadelphia is a civil rights issue and the simple fact is that is living in a place where slavery is not in his face as they might that in another place or another time. >> right, you mention philadelphia is one of the questions was why philadelphia in your view such an intellectual center the late 18th century with thomas paine and ben franklin and any thoughts on that. >> it is hard to attribute a reason to that is certainly agree with the premise of the question that it is those things. back in the 16 hundreds, boston was the largest town or city in america which is to say not very large and all and for most of the 17 hundreds, philadelphia would be the largest town or city in america, and in the 18 hundreds and after, it would be
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new york so in the 18th century, is philadelphia's centric and so the fact that it scale, the largest in place and it's making it for money for people, also means is a magnet for ideas and conversation. his quaker heritage printed in the place of toleration, people with different face can look side-by-side and you would think that it would extend into other diversities as well, these new ideas, and people who live in backgrounds patricians are living next to each other and at the to that and you're absolutely correct, the leading colonial neutral scientists and philosophers, they live in pennsylvania in the 18 hundreds. new york is not yet the city that would be, later and frankly the presence there, franklin at the generator in a magnet for smart intelligent people pretty
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they would rub shoulders with him so he is a big part of this. >> thank you, and is connected question here, do you think that thomas paine was a visionary thinker or an effective communicator of other ideas related to this, is he have health including "common sense", and there've been other ideas and/or help and refinement prior to publication. >> the idea that there are geniuses who sit in a room in a cave and they get no external stimulation, is probably false mythical and think all of us have the best ideas coming in from interaction with others, other people right so that is probably true of thomas paine as well. many people don't know that he was part of a radical club back in england, the headstones, and
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he has been founded with "common sense" newspaper essays back in england and he wrote and he was chip in the penciling in pennsylvania and it was that trait in training ground for him to find out what americans care about the race to the language the one read every month and i think he sees himself as a sponge from a cultural standard ended do abundant dilemmas and e-mails that he's not writing an american, and come back to you? mind you think that a significant portion of what so magnificent about thomas paine park is gifts of us as a writer the same way some of the people like thomas jefferson, their endowed with extraordinary gifts as writers and extraordinary gift as a writer and would thomas paine is of course is largely self-taught, and he is
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not sitting in a fancy library somewhere like jefferson it had for quite a while and the sort of google hunting figure. and he goes to the local library more like franklin and jefferson in that regard which i admire a great deal when working man turned made that sort of journey i believe to some extent he has his own ideas and later talking about is work which is just as many makes out a compelling scheme to reform and social policy which probably does have his recent other runners but again he brings this together and explaining it very clearly and making it is known and often dies before this who i appreciate this ideology and pragmatism of their.
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>> right in exactly the kind of connected with this justice and what he wrote in that we have a few questions about in the description of the campaign against thomas paine, 19 and for modern times, do you see parallels post 911, america and connected without kind of the thomas paine's influence today. [inaudible]. i'm going to tread carefully that area. >> tread carefully, i think the people can see that there are connect is definitely here. >> all i will say that when you are in there, all cases and all times, no centuries, new ideas face scrutiny and some people
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embrace them and perhaps because they have the right ideas, or it might be benefiting from going into the new direction of the people pushback against new ideas because it could affect them adversely and it seems that many of thomas paine's ideas can rightfully be understood as a challenge to orthodoxy and to conventional wisdom and by most 18th century sanders, he is a radical and they always have a tough time and replace in every sensory in that regard thomas paine is not being unusual here in the only thing unusual about thomas paine, is that he keeps at it for decades and decades and never really silencer shut down and my final slide i have this thing associated with him, 700 that is "common sense",
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astonishing, we could die happily knowing that we have been transformed in world history and he also writes that the age of reason and "rights of man" in their own ways have equally trams transformed any keeps on going and he is the bunny of radicalism up so that makes him someone deserving of our attention. >> great, another question for the evening with why did the french allow thomas paine to be able to write the age of reason when he was in prison at. >> that's a very specific question i am sure that was common practice because there is no radio and tv's in the sales background and this was a former palace as well so there was at least an attempt to suggest a radical revolutionaries who were
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holding him, but we are not monsters, we are civilized here and we got the great thomas paine here, even if - and so it would be barbaric it to withhold his tools from him and i imagine it was common standings whether they could rewrite in the first place to be given a pen and paper and perhaps they do not fully understand what he was doing with that pen paper what the consequences of that would be. >> right, okay, great and that concludes our program tonight we have run out of time but ricky, thank you again for such a wonderful program and so without setting, good night to everyone and enjoy the rest of your evening. >> weekends on "c-span2", are an intellectual feast, every saturday in market history tv american stories are documented and on sunday with tv brings you the latest nonfiction books and
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