Thursday, 11 September 2008

Day of Paine

Tuesday was something of a day of Paine.

First, I went to the Mayor's "Keep Lewes in the National Park" event. I learned that a new objective for national parks is to preserve cultural heritage. Of course, Lewes having been Tom Paine's home for a while, that cropped up. In fact, a big issue for the campaign is whether Lewes is "embedded in the South Downs". Now, Lewes was built in a gap in the Downs, through which the river Ouse flows (well, one of the many!). That was for two reasons. As a defensive position, it's the site of Lewes Castle and hence the Battle of Lewes. As a trade crossroads (paths along the Downs, and the river), and a port, it became the home of Tom Paine, who was a excise officer in Lewes. So, two of Lewes' most important contributions to national and international history happened because Lewes is embedded in the Downs.

So, that was my first encounter with Paine for the day.

Next, I attended Lewes District Council's cabinet meeting. They discussed an offer by a member of the public to commission a statue of Tom Paine by Marcus Cornish, for display in front of the Library - on district council land. Of course, we Lib-Dems were keen to accept the offer. Two of the Tories though launched into vicious attacks on Paine - calling him a traitor to the country. He wasn't, of course. He may have anti-monarchy, but that's not the same thing. He was also instrumental in the American Revolution, but that was essentially civil war. Anyway, it's all water under the bridge now, and I don't think anyone today would seriously advocate a return to the virtually absolutist monarchy of Paine's time. Or, maybe they would.

That was my second encounter with Paine.

The third, and very welcome encounter, was at the launch of the Lewes Pound. Tom Paine's head is depicted on the Lewes Pound Note. Ironically, or perhaps deliberately, in the place you'd otherwise expect to find the Queen's head. Yay!
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