Thomas Paine (1737 - 1809)
Paines Revolutionary propaganda in Common Sense and the Crisis played
a critical role in arousing American patriotism. Because of his later role
in the French Revolution, and especially his attacks on Christianity in The Age of Reason, Paine has long been the most controversial
of the Revolutionary heroes. Theodore Roosevelt, for instance, once called
him a dirty little atheist.
After the American Revolution Paine traveled
to Britain and France to promote his iron-bridge invention. He became a French
citizen and was elected to the Revolutionary Convention. His stirring work, The Rights of Man, a reply to Edmund Burkes Reflections on the Revolution in France, sold hundreds
of thousands of copies and made him a wanted man in Britain.
Following his return to America in 1801, even
his influential friends, like Jefferson, avoided him, and he ended his life
in poverty. After his death a British admirer dug up his bones and shipped
them to Britain, where they were lost.
Quote: One of
the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings is
that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it
into ridicule by giving mankind an Ass for a Lion.But where, some say,
is the King of America? Ill tell you, friend, He reigns above, and
doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Great Britain.
(Common Sense, 1776)
REFERENCE: Eric Foner, Tom
Paine and Revolutionary America (1976).
Richard Henry Lee (1732 - 1794)
Richard Henry Lee, the most eloquent Revolutionary
orator besides Patrick Henry, was the author of the resolution declaring independence
in June of 1776.
Lee came from the wealthy and influential Virginia
Lee clan. Along with Henry, he gained political influence with his speeches
attacking the Stamp Act and British economic domination of the colonies. He
was a commanding presence at the Philadelphia Congress; John Adams was awed
by him and called him a masterly man. His brother, Francis Lightfoot
Lee, also signed the Declaration of Independence.
His career declined after the Revolution, and
like Henry, he was an Anti-Federalist in the fight over the Constitution.
Tall and slender, Lee had receding red hair and a musical voice.
Quote: Why then
do we longer delay? Why still deliberate? Let this most happy day give birth
to the American republic. Let her arise, not to devastate and conquer, but
to re-establish the reign of peace and law. (Speech to Second Continental
REFERENCE: Oliver Perry Chitwood, Richard
Henry Lee: Statesman of the Revolution (1967).
John Paul Jones (1742 - 1792)
A naval hero of the American Revolution, Jones
is known as the founder of the United States Navy. Although he professed deep
commitment to America, he was a Scottish immigrant who actually spent little
time in the United States, preferring to live abroad after the Revolution.
His original name was John Paul. He added the
Jones in 1773, evidently to conceal his identity after being
accused of killing a mutineer aboard a British merchant ship he was commanding.
He then came to Virginia, made influential friends like Robert Morris, and
received authorization to begin a navy. The heroic fight when he lashed the Serapis to his Bonhomme Richard made
him an international hero, although in Britain he was considered a pirate
because of his raids on coastal towns.
An extremely complex personality, Jones has
puzzled historians and has often been the subject of novels, plays, and poems.
Despite his service to Americas republican cause, he was devoted to
King Louis XIV of France and near the end of his life became an officer in
the navy of the despotic czarina of Russia, Catherine II.
has been the country of my fond election, from the age of thirteen, when I
first saw it. I had the honor to hoist, with my hands, the flag of freedom,
the first time it was displayed on the River Delaware; and I have attended
it, with veneration, ever since on the ocean. (1779)
REFERENCE: Samuel Eliot Morison, John
Paul Jones (1959).
George Rogers Clark (1752 - 1818)
Clark was the American frontiersman whose daring
exploits won the trans-Appalachian west for the new United States.
Born in Virginia, Clark went west at age nineteen
to work as a surveyor along the Ohio River. Clark became a leader of the frontier
settlers, who deeply resented the British authorities connections with
Indians. Clark returned to Virginia in 1776 to receive a militia commission
to attack British forts. He hoped to raise at least 500 men, but only 175
After his great successes in the Illinois campaign
and the capture of Vincennes, he attempted to capture the British fort at
Detroit in 1779 but failed. Besides his skill at frontier warfare, he proved
especially adept at persuading many Indians to abandon the British and support
the French and Americans, or at least to remain neutral.
He had little success after the war. Jefferson
initially offered him command of the expedition to explore Louisiana, but
the position went instead to his brother William.
Quote: (Speech to Indians)
The Great Spirit has caused your old Father the French King and other
nations to join the big Knife (Washington) and fight with them, so that the
English have become like a deer in the woods.
REFERENCE: Lowell H. Harrison, George
Rogers Clark and the War in the West (1969).