One Life: Thomas Paine, The Radical Founding Father

August 7, 2009 – November 29, 2009

Thomas Paine
Attributed to Samuel Collings (?–1795)
Pencil, ink, and wash on paper, c. 1792

National Portrait Gallery
8th and G Streets, NW
Washington, DC

1st Floor, East

See on Map Floor Plan

The One Life gallery within the museum is devoted to the exploration of the life of one individual.

This exhibition features Thomas Paine (1737-1809), whose pamphlet Common Sense fired up Americans to get on with a declaration of independence and whose exhortation, "These are the times that try men's souls," was read by General Washington to his dispirited troops. His story begins in Philadelphia when he arrived in 1774; continues through his tumultuous years in England, where his anti-monarchy diatribe—Rights of Man—brought charges of seditious libel; and ends in revolutionary France, where he barelyescaped the guillotine. Paine, also the author of The Age of Reason — a bold attack on organized religion—returned to America in 1802 to find himself scorned by his old associates and much of the public. He died in poverty, his bones were later stolen and dispersed, but his words have resounded down through the ages. Featured in the exhibition is the museum's recently acquired portrait of Paine depicted by the French artist Laurant Dabos around 1792.