Many factors contributed to Paine's unpopularity and obscurity. There was the matter of his social standing--not born into the gentry, not particularly wealthy, not urbane in manners, he was the epitome of a representative of the proletariat--in the words of an unnamed witness, "'the very picture of a journeyman tailor who has been drunk and playing at nine pins for the first three days of the week, and is returning to his work on Thursday'" (215). Something of an outsider, a recent arrival to America--in the words of Gouverneur Morris (who probably wins the award for "most embarrassing death"), nothing but a "'mere adventurer from ENGLAND'" (215). Using "simple, direct--some critics said coarse, barnyard--imagery drawn from the commonplace world" (220). He was excluded from the aristocracy, but that wouldn't have prevented a career as the mouthpiece of the working class. He even spent time in Revolutionary France.
Then he had to go and slam Christianity in his book The Age of Reason.
I mean, most of his revolutionary compatriots were just a wee bit irreligious, but going straight out and saying that "there is none more [bad] than this thing called Christianity" (221) was a really silly thing to do. Before, his enemies could only sit and grumble about his lower-class background and cantankerous nature, but now they've got ammunition that might actually stick in this particular time and place. Being called an atheist back then was pretty serious, and Paine ended up digging his own grave with that particular line. Basically, America's original maverick doomed himself through his anti-authoritarian nature. Sad, isn't it.
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