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Accidental revolutionary

Christopher Hitchens has come round to Tom Paine's view that things would have been far better if the French revolution had been more like the American

By prospect   September 2006

Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man by Christopher Hitchens (Atlantic Books, £9.99)

The life of Thomas Paine was mostly pretty wretched. He was born in Norfolk in 1737, to a father who combined the strait-laced trade of a corset maker with the rigorous creed of a Quaker. His education was curtailed because his father objected to his learning Latin, the language of Popery. After a desultory apprenticeship to his father’s trade he gave up carving corsets and became, as he put it, “the carver of my own fortune.” The enterprise was not a big success. After failing as a seaman for…

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