Please join us for the next Kentucky Early American Seminar on Friday, April 20th, from 5:00 – 6:30 pm at the Kentucky Historical Society.
Abstract for “Thomas Paine, Quakerism, and the Limits of Religious Liberty during the American Revolution”
Jane E. Calvert
Scholars have long celebrated Thomas Paine as a champion of rights and liberty and architect of democratic revolutions. Many have attributed his political thought to his Quaker upbringing and continued identification with Quakers and their causes. This essay, for Yale’s “Rethinking the Western Tradition” series, challenges these assumptions by describing the active role Paine played in the persecution of Pennsylvania Quakers during the American Revolution. It argues that, to rally Pennsylvanians to rebel and maintain enthusiasm for revolution, Paine skillfully manipulated pre-existing provincial animosities to portray pacifist and neutral Friends as Loyalists. Knowing that many Pennsylvanians harbored more animosity towards their immediate Quaker governors than the distant king or Parliament, Paine used resistance to Quakerism as a catalyst for a larger cause. Congress, Pennsylvania’s Revolutionary government, and the public allowed themselves to be convinced of Quaker treason, and, following Paine’s recommendations, they committed serious violations of the Quakers’ civil and religious liberties. The essay concludes that Paine had no real understanding of Quakerism or, despite his own claims, commitment to preserving the rights of religious dissenters. The larger purpose of the essay is to encourage an audience of undergraduates to consider how dissenters are treated in time of war.
Papers are pre-circulated electronically through the KEAS website:http://louisville.edu/history/kentucky-early-american-studies-seminar.html
The KEAS meets at the Kentucky Historical Society, located at 100 W. Broadway, in Frankfort, KY.http://history.ky.gov/index.php.
Please let Kelly A. Ryan (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Bradford Wood (Brad.Wood@eku.edu) know if you are interested in presenting your work.
Our next seminar presentation after April 20 will be in the fall
Kelly A. Ryan
Assistant Professory of History
Indiana University Southeast
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