Tuesday, May. 10, 2011

Remains of Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine, the greatest pamphleteer in history, a hero of both the American and French revolutions and allegedly the first person to write the words "the United States of America," died a penniless drunk in Manhattan. Only six people attended his funeral, and a popular nursery rhyme at the time of his death went:

Poor Tom Paine! There he lies:
Nobody laughs and nobody cries
Where he has gone or how he fares
Nobody knows and nobody cares

Even after death, Paine couldn't catch a break. Some ten years later, overzealous journalist and Paine fan William Cobbett, exhumed Paine's body and shipped it to England where he hoped to build a proper memorial. Cobbett couldn't raise the money needed, so Paine remained in a trunk in his attic. After Cobbett's death, Paine's remains disappeared. Legend has it that his bones were turned into buttons, though in the 1930s, one woman in Brighton claimed to have his jawbone. Poor Tom Paine!