Publish date:
Updated on
Year
1793

An American hero is arrested in France

Thomas Paine is arrested in France for treason. Though the charges against him were never detailed, he had been tried in absentia on December 26 and convicted. Before moving to France, Paine was an instrumental figure in the American Revolution as the author of Common Sense, writings used by George Washington to inspire the American troops. Paine moved to Paris to become involved with the French Revolution, but the chaotic political climate turned against him, and he was arrested and jailed for crimes against the country.

When he first arrived in Paris, Paine was heartily welcomed and granted honorary citizenship by leaders of the revolution who enjoyed his antiroyalty book The Rights of Man. However, before long, he ran afoul of his new hosts. Paine was strictly opposed to the death penalty under all circumstances and he vocally opposed the French revolutionaries who were sending hundreds to the guillotine. He also began writing a provocative new book, The Age of Reason, which promoted the controversial notion that God did not influence the actions of people and that science and rationality would prevail over religion and superstition. Although Paine realized that sentiment was turning against him in the autumn of 1793, he remained in France because he believed he was helping the people.

After he was arrested, Paine was taken to Luxembourg Prison. The jail was formerly a palace and unlike any other detainment center in the world. He was treated to a large room with two windows and was locked inside only at night. His meals were catered from outside, and servants were permitted, though Paine did not take advantage of that particular luxury. While in prison, he continued to work on The Age of Reason.

Paine’s imprisonment in France caused a general uproar in America and future President James Monroe used all of his diplomatic connections to get Paine released in November 1794. Ironically, it wasn’t long before Paine came to be despised in the United States, as well. After The Age of Reason was published, he was called an anti-Christ, and his reputation was ruined. Thomas Paine died a poor man in 1809 in New York.

FACT CHECK: We strive for accuracy and fairness. But if you see something that doesn't look right, click here to contact us!

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Dubcek returns to public office

Alexander Dubcek, former Czechoslovak leader and architect of the “Prague Spring,” is elected chairman of the new multiparty Czechoslovak parliament. It was the first time Dubcek held public office since being deprived of Communist Party membership in 1970. The trend toward ...read more

Calhoun resigns vice presidency

Citing political differences with President Andrew Jackson and a desire to fill a vacant Senate seat in South Carolina, John C. Calhoun becomes the first vice president in U.S. history to resign the office. Born near Abbeville, South Carolina, in 1782, Calhoun was an advocate of ...read more

America’s first Labor Day

The Knights of Labor, a labor union of tailors in Philadelphia, hold the first Labor Day ceremonies in American history. The Knights of Labor was established as a secret society of Pennsylvanian tailors earlier in the year and later grew into a national body that played an ...read more

Central Red Army defeats New York Rangers at MSG

On this day in 1975, a crowd of 17,500 ice hockey fans watch HC CSKA (also called the Central Red Army) from the Soviet Union defeat the New York Rangers 7-3 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The game marked the kick-off of the first so-called “Super Series”–a series of ...read more

William Booth Taliaferro born

On this day in 1822, Confederate General William Taliaferro is born in Gloucester County, Virginia. Taliaferro served under General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson for the first part of the war,and spent the second half preparing coastal defenses in the lower South. Taliaferro ...read more