5:30 pm to 7:00 pm
“The Architect and the State: Tom Paine’s Iron Bridge, from Common Sense to Rights of Man”
Edward Gray, Florida State University
This paper explores the significance of Tom Paine’s bridge-building activities and attempts to connect those activities to the larger arc of Paine’ thought. The paper argues that the bridge reflects a little recognized aspect of Paine’s radicalism: an abiding interest in the commercial infrastructure of the state. Paine is generally thought of as one of the American Revolution’s most radical proponents. But his quest to build a single-arched iron bridge, the paper argues, is indicative of a prominent strain in his thinking that places him closer to commercial system builders such as Adam Smith and Thomas Jefferson than most scholars have recognized.