Thomas Paine and the Polity of the Blood
Published in May 2023 by Mot Juste
Size 160 x 230mm
262 pages in softcover, includes extensive bibliographical references and an index.
£25 including postage
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'History of the Bones'–the inspiration behind the book
The Appendix about The Bones is the intriguing tale of the journey of Paine’s bones from his grave in New Rochelle, outside New York City, back to England. The source of this was a pamphlet A Brief History of the Remains of the Late Thomas Paine, From the Time of their Disinterment in 1819, By the Late William Cobbett, probably composed by Benjamin Tilly, Honorary Secretary of the William Cobbett Club, a London political society during the late 1830s and early 1840s. It was William Cobbett who brought Paine’s bones to England in 1819.
About the book
Thomas Paine shocked the eighteenth-century world with a political philosophy that rejected the principle of hereditary succession. Through demanding abolition of the birth right of monarchs and nobles to rule, he challenged the basis upon which constitutions had normally functioned.
The outcome was to advocate a novel system of egalitarian republicanism which found acceptance in America and France but why not in Britain?
Drawing on a close examination of Paine’s life, writings and legacy, Thomas Paine and the Polity of the Blood offers a fascinating and original characterisation of Paine’s republicanism. Rather than being flexibly capable of accepting hereditary monarchy, the study argues that from 1775 Paine rejected the idea completely.
The study also presents in a new light the provenance of Paine’s political radicalism. Rather than deriving from the political elitism of the Whig tradition, his republicanism is seen as inspired by the political egalitarianism of the radical enlightenment. The study again breaks new ground by regarding the opposition to Paineite attempts to transform Britain into a republic as articulated not just by conservatives but also by the majority of radicals.
And, as a bonus, Bush unearths new evidence on the strange disinterment, and eventual disappearance, of Paine’s remains. The result is an intriguing detective story and a testament to the changing fortunes of Paine’s posthumous reputation in his native land. In these four respects the book offers a new and plausible explanation of why Paineite republicanism failed to transform the British constitution.
About the author
Michael Laccohee Bush – formerly a research professor at Manchester Metropolitan University – has published several well-received books on related topics. They include Richard Carlile’s Philosophy of Sex (Verso Press, 1998), The Casualties of Peterloo (Carnegie Press, 2005) and The Friends and Following of Richard Carlile, a Study of Infidel Republicanism in Early Nineteenth-Century Britain (Twopenny Press, 2016).
His current research is the impact in Britain of the Dutch philosopher Baruch de Spinoza, via Charles Blount, Anthony Collins, David Hume, Joseph Priestley,
Thomas Paine, Percy Bysshe Shelley and Julian Hibbert.
Richard Whatmore, Professor of Modern History at the University of St Andrews:
“Polity of the Blood adds greatly to our knowledge of Paine’s world and the radicals who feared or venerated him over the following generations. Michael Bush has unearthed a lot of new information, including about Paine’s bones, and the result is a fast-paced and enjoyable work of scholarship.”
Paul Fitzgerald (Polyp), author of PAINE graphic novel (www.paine.org.uk):
"Great to see such a robust and well researched analysis. I was riveted by the authoritative appendix account of what actually happened to Paine’s remains. An excellent step in the task of reviving the memory of this much neglected democratic and enlightenment hero."
Professor Gary Berton, President of the Thomas Paine National Historical Association, USA; Associate Editor, Thomas Paine Collected Works and Correspondence:
"I commend you on an honest and objective analysis of Paine's philosophy and politics. Your analysis of Paine on hereditary government is what I found most eloquent and exact. And it also foretells one of the reasons you assign the end of Paine's influence.”