3 - Writing Revolutionary History  pp. 86-113

Writing Revolutionary History

By Edward Larkin

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In the summer of 1783, shortly after the conclusion of the War of Independence, Paine attempted to secure a congressional pension in recompense for services rendered during the previous seven years. Rather than grant him a pension or other form of direct remuneration, the committee reviewing his petition proposed that Paine be appointed to the salaried position of historiographer to the United States. The committee suggested that “a just and impartial account of our interest for public Freedom and happiness should be handed down to posterity,” and noted that “a History of the American revolution compiled by Mr. Paine is certainly to be desired” (qtd. in Keane, 245). In his recent biography of Paine, John Keane argues that “The report annoyed and depressed Paine” because “It smacked of America's ‘cold conduct’ toward its own writers, and it failed to understand that as a political writer, Paine needed material support now, not in the future” (245). But Keane, like Paine before him, misreads the situation. It wasn't so much because of his professional status as a political writer, but because of the Congress' desperate financial straits that Paine was denied compensation. Given the state of the Congress' finances at the time, and their inability to pay many soldiers for back pay, it would have been a serious political blunder to grant Paine a pension at this moment.


Reference Title: Works Cited

Reference Type: bibliography

Reference Type: bibliography

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