Tom Paine mug, c1792

This mug was made in about 1792. It carries an attack on the political writer Thomas Paine, with the following inscription:

Prithee Tom Paine, why wilt thou meddling be?

In others Business which concerns not thee

For while thereon thou dost extend thy Cares

Thou dost at home neglect they own affairs

Observe the wicked and malitious Man/ Projecting all the Mischief that he can.

Why the hate?

A former Lewes resident who moved to America, Tom Paine leaped to fame in 1776 with the publication of his Common Sense. Calling for the American colonists to throw off the rule of King George III, it is widely regarded as paving the way to the formal declaration of independence later that year.

This mug was produced in response to a later work of Paine’s, his two part Rights of Man in 1791-2. A stinging attack on rule by monarchy and a call for wholesale reform of society, it lead to his trial for seditious libel and Paine fleeing England.

Paine had settled in France where, as an enthusiastic supporter of the revolution, he had been elected to the National Convention. This is probably why the mug states that he should look after his ‘affairs’ in his new ‘home’ — especially as the political situation in France was becoming increasingly unstable and violent.

But the words are perhaps less biting than the portrait of Paine on the mug. He is depicted as a snake with a human head, suggesting he is a poisonous influence on society.

Author: Kevin Bacon, Digital Manager

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