The foibles of most public men are unearthed while they walk among us. “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” But revisionism makes history its palimpsest. Heroic pamphleteer Thomas Paine is but the latest of the Founding generation laid low by this twenty-first-century zeitgeist.
His sin? Paine was a bimetallist who believed in commodity currency -- gold or silver. Honored in his time, today’s establishment would have the New Rochelle revolutionary tarred-and-feathered for his heterodoxy.
Paine’s motivation for writing Dissertations in the mid-1780s was a Pennsylvanian banking bill and the rivalry it spawned: one bank with notes guaranteed by specie versus another with no guarantee other than legal tender laws, which he reasoned belied the currency’s worthlessness and “calculated to support fraud and oppression.”
“Nature has provided the proper materials for money, gold and silver, and any attempt of ours to rival her is ridiculous,” Paine wrote; they were “the emissions of nature: paper is the emission of art.”
My thanks to the editors at the American Thinker.