View Full Version : Thomas Paine Park: Does the man deserve a monument?

July 31st, 2005, 08:22 PM
THOMAS PAINE PARK is part of the greater NYC park called Foley Square. Aside from a small in-ground plaque hidden away in a corner of the park, there is no monument to man who, through the writing of his pamphlets "The Age of Reason" & "The Crisis", helped to put the American Revolution into motion.

Paine was with Washington's army in December 1776 as it fled to New Jersey following the early defeat of the Revolutionary Army in New York and rallied the troops with publicaton of "The Crisis", which begins with the words:

"These are the times that try men's souls..."


Should a larger monument be installed in the park to celebrate one of the instrumental figures in American history?

Thomas Paine Park: A photo showing the park from the southern edge looking across Foley Square toward the Federal Courthouse and the Municipal Building (with the sculpture "Triumph of the Human Spirit in the foreground) can be found at this link:


This sign in Philadelphia celebrates the print shop where Thomas Paine's first pamphlet, "Common Sense", was published in 1776:


"Arguing for a republican form of government under a written constitution, it played a key role in rallying American support for Independence."

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What follows is an excerpt from a book review of a new biography of Paine from the NY Times (Sunday July 31, 2005):

Gregory Nemec

'Thomas Paine and the Promise of America': Founding Father of the American Left
By Harvey J. Kaye
326 pp. Hill & Wang. $25.

Published: July 31, 2005


WHAT we might call the Founders' Surge keeps rolling along. Harvey J. Kaye's ''Thomas Paine and the Promise of America'' is the newest entry in the founders' sweepstakes, making a spirited argument that Paine merits a place on the Mall or Tidal Basin as the only authentically radical voice, the only unblinkered democrat, the only patriotic prophet whose vision remains relevant and resonant for our time.

If the criteria were exclusively journalistic, Paine's status would be assured. In 1774 this working-class unknown from London, uneducated and a former corset maker, arrived in Philadelphia. Less than two years later he did what every American journalist since then has dreamed of doing: changing the course of history with a piece of writing. His ''Common Sense'' (1776) galvanized popular opinion around the idea that American independence was not impossible, but indeed inevitable.

Several months later he became America's first embedded journalist, accompanying the tattered remnants of the Continental Army as it fled across New Jersey after a devastating defeat in New York. In retrospect, this was the most vulnerable moment the American republic ever faced, the greatest threat to what we now call national security. In this all-consuming context, Paine wrote the defiantly reassuring words that would echo through the ages: ''These are the times that try men's souls.'' Long before Edward R. Murrow could tingle spines during World War II with ''This is London,'' Paine had already set the standard against which all subsequent American journalists would be measured.

Kaye's core argument, however, goes far beyond the claim that Paine was a great journalist. Writing with the passion of a defense attorney whose client has been wrongfully sentenced to obscurity by what he calls a plutocratic phalanx of ''the powerful, propertied, prestigious and pious,'' Kaye contends that Paine, alone among the founding generation, saw to the very heart of the American promise embodied in the principles of 1776. Even more than Thomas Jefferson, whose revolutionary vision was blurred by the stigma of slavery, Paine was a cleareyed radical.

The key document here is not ''Common Sense'' but ''The Rights of Man'' (1791-92), which advocated that both France and America embrace the full implications of their respective revolutions: the end of slavery; equality for women; abolition of all property requirements to vote; complete separation of church and state; global peace enforced by an international confederation of republican governments. In other words, Paine was a radical visionary because he insisted on the immediate adoption of the liberal agenda destined to triumph, though quite gradually, over the next two centuries.

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Writings of Thomas Paine, including the poem "Liberty Tree" can be found at:

Liberty Tree
by Thomas Paine, 1775

IN a chariot of light from the regions of day,
The Goddess of Liberty came;
Ten thousand celestials directed the way,
And hither conducted the dame.
A fair budding branch from the gardens above,
Where millions with millions agree,
She brought in her hand as a pledge of her love,
And the plant she named Liberty Tree.

The celestial exotic struck deep in the ground,
Like a native it flourished and bore;
The fame of its fruit drew the nations around,
To seek out this peaceable shore.
Unmindful of names or distinctions they came,
For freemen like brothers agree;
With one spirit endued, they one friendship pursued,
And their temple was Liberty Tree.

Beneath this fair tree, like the patriarchs of old,
Their bread in contentment they ate
Unvexed with the troubles of silver and gold,
The cares of the grand and the great.
With timber and tar they Old England supplied,
And supported her power on the sea;
Her battles they fought, without getting a groat,
For the honor of Liberty Tree.

But hear, O ye swains, 'tis a tale most profane,
How all the tyrannical powers,
Kings, Commons and Lords, are uniting amain,
To cut down this guardian of ours;
From the east to the west blow the trumpet to arms,
Through the land let the sound of it flee,
Let the far and the near, all unite with a cheer,
In defence of our Liberty Tree.

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From the NYC Parks website:


A park in Lower Manhattan received a modest, but useful, birthday present this week as new routed signs were installed at Thomas Paine Park, named for the Revolutionary War-era author and patriot who was born on January 29, 1737, 250 years ago.

The park, located on Pearl and Centre Streets, is part of 2.5 acres of parkland adjacent to the County Courthouse called Foley Square. It was named for Thomas Paine on December 13, 1977 through a local law introduced by then City Council President Paul O’Dwyer, who was recently appointed Manhattan Borough Historian. The law was co-sponsored by City Council Member Miriam Friedlander, Board of Education President Robert F. Wagner Jr., and Commissioner Stern, then Councilman-at-Large from Manhattan.