Amanuensis Monday: When Stephen Dando met Thomas Paine

Stephen Dando was my 5x great-uncle, the son of John Dando & Ann (nee Brothers), my 5 x great-grandparents. Born in Rodborough, Gloucestershire, in about 1770, he came from a Non-conformist family who were in the hat manufacturing business.

In 1785, Stephen moved to New York, where he lived until his death in 1851. His hat store was situated near Broadway. He also became an agent for a publication known as The Christian Advocate and Journal. Stephen was a religious man who had often heard John and Charles Wesley preach and he also held anti-slavery views.

Stephen Dando evidently met the famous radical propagandist and pamphleteer, Thomas Paine, who died in 1809. What follows is a letter to the editor of The Liberator (Boston, MA) from one EJ Webb, dated 1st July 1848 and published on Friday 9th May 1851.

The writer appears to have known Stephen Dando for a long time and thought of him as a decent and honest but misguided man who, in his opinion, had been used by a number of clergymen to deride the memory of Thomas Paine, whom the writer much admired.

Thomas Paine.

MR. EDITOR :-I noticed in your paper of June 28th, that some insignificant professor of the prevailing faith had signified to you his astonishment that any decent man should defend a person of "such notoriously filthy habits as Thomas Paine" was said to possess. The said insignificant professor of the weakest faith that ever deluded a mortal being is not alone. A few weeks since, a gentleman, once a Unitarian preacher, and conversant with my scepticism, handed me a document cut from the Christian Advocate and Journal, dated Jan. 2d, 1847, which I should have noticed before had not business prevented. My friend, in a note, desired me to notice the said publication, observing that from all he knew of THOMAS PAINE, his character for honor and integrity was preferable to nine out of every ten clergymen ; and further stated, that they sought to defame Mr. Paine, because they detested the principles of Liberty and Equality which he so ably advocated.
    The slip from the Advocate, is signed by a Stephen Dando, an old gentleman of New York, whom I have known over thirty years–a very pious manufacturer of men's hats. The old gentleman is one of the easy kind, and during the Methodist Conference in the city, whenever it occurred, usually boarded at his table from fifteen to twenty pious preaching brethren, and their attendants. From brother Dando's expenses exceeding his income, his resources failed ; still, our brother's name was used to sign a document derogatory to the standing of Mr. Paine as a particularly clean man, and one easily approached by a posse of canting hypocrites. The scene is laid at the house where the philosopher breathed his last ; and whatever may have been his habits, his answers to a Mr. Ward, a Methodist preacher, redound to his honor. Mr. W. endeavoured to warn him of the awful consequences of falling into the hands of the living God. Mr. P. answered-"I did not know that I ever was out of his hands." Ward, it appears, asked Mr. Paine several insignificant questions, and with his brother retired. Brother Dando loitered behind. Mr. P. asked him who that man was? Dando replied, "a Methodist preacher." Paine instantly exclaimed, "I thought so." Friend D. then said, "shall brother Ward visit you as a minister?" "No," he quickly replied, "I am my own minister. I ask no assistance from any human being, in a spiritual way." It appears by the narrative, that brother Dando was induced to make a second visit to Mr. Paine on the following day ; but, as our brother observes, the enemies of the gospel had been there ; of course there was no admittance.
    It seems that after Mr. Paine has been dead nearly forty years, the virulence of the priesthood is unabated ; for not succeeding with Mr. Paine in their endeavors to warp his opinion, they hold a long discourse with a Mrs. Turner, at whose house our worthy was abiding ; and though Mr. Paine's opinions could not be changed, an attack is made on a dying man's habits, as is said to be related by the lady above named. For the malignity of the uncharitable craft, poor Dando is selected as the accuser. It is my firm belief that STEPHEN DANDO is an honest man of good meaning, but of weak capacity. And the silly story of Paine's habits in his death-bed sickness, propagated by the priesthood, is conclusive evidence that with the clergy generally there is no charity.
"Kings, priests, and statesmen, blast the human flower,
Even in its tender bud ; their influence darts
Like subtle poison through the bloodless veins
Of desolate society."-[Shelley's "Queen Mab."
       Yours, truly,
            E.J. WEBB
New York, July 1 1848.

Apparently, only six people attended Thomas Paine's funeral as he had been ostracized due to his criticism and ridicule of Christianity.

Stephen Dando's full biography can be viewed here.

Links for Thomas Paine:

[Why Amanuensis Monday? This phrase has been included in the title in order to take part in Daily Blogging Prompts at Geneabloggers]

Category: Famous Connections

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