TOM PAINE: America's Godfather by W.K. Woodward

TOM PAINE: America's Godfather

Email this review


Woodward does not see eye to eye with Howard Fast on some of the things he has to say about Tom Paine, but he cannot take away from him the credit of having done more than anyone else in making today's readers aware of the vital part Paine played in American Democracy. No doubt, this Woodward biography will be accepted as definitive; Fast's fictionized biography will continue to appeal to a wider popular taste. Woodward gives us considerably more detail of Paine's checkered career in England, -- trained as a stay maker, hating the job, trying twice to run away to see and once succeeding in enlisting on a privateer; serving as exciseman but recurrently taking up his old trade; marrying twice, -- his first wife dying, his second wife-in-name-only living apart from him after he went into bankruptcy. Franklin aided him in going to America -- and Woodward traces the wayward fortune of a man of brilliant gifts, high ideals, no hard-headedness when it came to protecting his own interests, and with a genius for making enemies -- and some great friends. The American Revolution owes much to him; the English social revolution (though here Woodward fails -- it seems to me --to follow through); and the French Revolution. One gets swift sketches of changing social forces, here and aborad, and one follows Paine's life to its tragic, poverty stricken end. Woodward denies his degeneration, his drinking and sluttishness, attributing this to slander, spread by his enemies. He quotes liberally from his writings...Sell on interest in Paine -- and on Woodward's fine gift as biographer.

Pub Date: June 22nd, 1945
Publisher: Dutton