Thomas Paine learns to stay out of domestic disputes

Today in History, December 28, 1793:

Ever been given the sage advice to stay out of other people’s quarrels because the combatants tend to turn on you?

Thomas Paine, much respected author of “Common Sense” which inspired the rebels in the American Revolution, learned this lesson the hard way.

When the American Revolution was over, and the French Revolution was in progress, Paine moved to France for the express purpose of becoming involved in that conflict (bored? Wanted attention?).

He was received as a hero by the French revolutionaries, even being awarded honorary French citizenship.

Paine was devoutly, and vocally, anti-death penalty…which didn’t set well with the French Revolutionaries who were in the middle of sending their former enemies to the guillotine.

He was arrested and, thanks to his honorary citizenship, charged with treason.

He was treated well in captivity, and it was less than a year before diplomatic pressure from America saw his release.

Paine returned home after an American uproar over his imprisonment.

While in prison he wrote another book, “The Age of Reason” in which he denounced organized religion and said man had no influence from God.

The publication of this book took him from war hero to pariah.


Today in History, December 29, 1845:

The United States annexes the Republic of Texas, the only US state to have been an independent nation.

The Republic had gained quite a bit of debt in it’s short life, and part of the bargain was for the Republic to relinquish parts of modern day Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming to the US in exchange for ten million dollars in bonds.

As a sovereign nation, the new state of Texas gained rights most other territories and states did not, which is why Texas has profited from her oil rights on land and off her shores.

“If I Am Judged By My Acts…”

Today in History, December 28, 1832:

John C. Calhoun, 7th Vice President of the United States, resigns to take a Senate seat from his native South Carolina. Calhoun was a short step away from the Presidency, twice. He ran unsuccessfully in 1821, and had he been able to remain as Vice President to Andrew Jackson, he almost certainly would have been assured the nomination and perhaps the election after Jackson’s two terms had ended.

But Calhoun and Jackson would get cross-ways over accusations of adultery involving the wife of the secretary of war, along with most of Jackson’s cabinet. This and their differences over nullification (the belief that the states could nullify ANY act by the federal government-admittedly a simplified explanation, but accurate), led to Calhoun’s resignation.

Calhoun was a fierce proponent of state’s rights, and as a result, of slavery.

However, a comment shortly before his death showed his loyalties, “If I am judged by my acts, I trust I shall be found as firm a friend of the Union as any man in it. If I shall have any place in the memory of posterity it will be in consequence of my deep attachment to it.”

Calhoun felt himself a patriot. He is, perhaps, a reminder that we can disagree with someone politically without assuming they are otherwise.

Today in History, December 28: 1867 –

The United States annexes it’s first territory outside of the continental US, two tiny specs of coral land halfway to Asia in the Pacific, first known as the Brook Islands for the man who discovered them, later renamed Midway Atoll.

The Navy attempted unsuccessfully to build a coaling station on the island, and later the Commercial Pacific Cable Company used the island as a link for telegraph lines across the world’s largest ocean.

In 1903 President T. Roosevelt stationed 21 US Marines there to ward off poachers. In the 1930’s Pan American Airways began using Midway as one of the stations for its now romantically famous island hopping China Clipper. And of course the “Goony Bird” filled islands became known to most of us for it’s part during the Battle of Midway during WWII.