Thomas Paine Was Dug Up, Paraded Around England, and Thrown Into an Attic
While we generally regard Thomas Paine as one of the first true champions of independence for the United States of America (he might've even been the first person to speak the phrase "United States of America"), his reputation was decidedly less stellar while he was still drawing breath on this thankless planet. Among his fellow colonists (many of whom would've actually preferred to have remained under British rule), he was seen less as an inspiring uber-patriot and more as one of those dipshit freshmen who think they're the first person to ever read a Noam Chomsky book.
"Arise from thine slumbers, people that most tragically resemble sheep in personality!"
Thomas Paine was shunned and branded a traitor; after dedicating his entire life to alienating every person he came into contact with, he died alone and forgotten in 1809, and was buried unceremoniously beneath a tree on his own property, in a service attended by six people (his last request to be buried in a specific cemetery was denied, because the Quakers in charge of the cemetery hated him that much). Dead goldfish are interred with more dignity.
Ten years later, however, one of Paine's old rivals, William Cobbett, felt his heart soften considerably towards the poor dead bastard. Cobbett decided that Paine had been right all along, and for pursuing his rightness in the face of shattering every single personal relationship in his life, Paine was a goddamn saint who deserved better than an anonymous hole attended by fewer people than it takes to field a baseball team. But rather than just speak or write praises of the man, Cobbett decided the public needed to experience Thomas Paine. So he dug up the skeletal pariah, smuggled his bones to England, and started parading them around while hyping him up like a 19th-century Flava Flav.
Museum of Farnham
No source says he didn't sport a gigantic pocket watch around his neck, meaning he absolutely did.
Predictably, the people of Britain had zero interest in Cobbett's efforts to get them to love a man who had spent the majority of his life shitting on the British Crown, which left Cobbett in a bind. He couldn't exactly return Paine to his prior resting place in America, because grave robbing is turbo illegal and the cops were absolutely waiting for him. Furthermore, Cobbett didn't have the money to rebury Paine with the respect Cobbett felt he deserved. There was only one logical solution: throw him in a trunk and stick him in the attic until everybody either forgot about it or declared International You Guys, William Cobbett Was Totally Right About Thomas Paine Day.
Sadly, Cobbett died in 1835 before at least one of those things happened. Cobbett's son attempted to auction off Paine's bones, but the moratorium on giving a shit about Thomas Paine still hadn't been lifted. When the bones didn't sell, Cobbett's son took them and ... well, actually, nobody's sure exactly what he did. Most likely, he sold Paine's body piecemeal over the years, meaning the man responsible for Common Sense could be scattered to the four corners of the Earth like the Iron Giant. Several people claim to own Paine's skull, Paine's jaw, and even buttons made out of Paine's recycled bone matter, because despite what our history books may say about him, people's respect for Thomas Paine has stayed pretty much exactly the same for the past two hundred years.
Hank Ketcham / Fantagraphics
Lead, follow, harass Mr. Wilson, or get out of the way.
Jef spends most of his time as a journalist for the Houston Press, but he also has a new short story, a tale of mad robot nurses and a man of miracles called "Sleepers, Wake!" available now. You can connect with him on Facebook.
For more ways death isn't the end, check out The 5 Most Bizarre Things People Have Done With Dead Bodies and The 6 Greatest Things Accomplished by Dead Bodies.
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