Saturday, January 25, 2014

Eric Nelson: "Hebraism and the Republican Turn of 1776: A Contemporary Account of the Debate over Common Sense"

Check it out here. A taste:
Paine’s earliest critics agreed fully with these assessments. The author of an anonymous reply to Common Sense, published in Dublin in 1776, blisteringly described how Paine “ransack[s] the holy scriptures, for texts against kingly government, and with a faculty of perverting sacred truths to the worst of purposes, peculiar to gentlemen of his disposition, quotes the example of the Jews.”3 This critic revealingly chose a line of Shakespeare for his pamphlet’s epigraph: “The Devil can cite Scripture for his purpose.”4 A second early antagonist, writing under the pseudonym “Rationalis,” likewise assailed Paine’s “scripture quotations, which he has so carefully garbled to answer his purpose,” while a third charged that Paine had “pervert[ed] the Scripture” in claiming that “monarchy . . . (meaning,probably, the institution of Monarchy,) ‘is ranked in Scripture as one of the sins of the Jews, for which a curse in reserve is denounced against them.’”5

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