On December 28, 1797, Thomas Paine was arrested in France for treason, after being tried in absentia on December 26 and convicted. Before moving to France, Paine was an instrumental figure in the American Revolution as the author of Common Sense. Paine had moved to Paris to become involved with the French Revolution, but the chaotic political climate turned against him. Paine had not earned friends in the Revolution with his vocal opposition to capital punishment.
“During the whole of my imprisonment,” Paine later wrote, “prior to the fall of Robespierre, there was no time when I could think my life worth twenty-four hours, and my mind was made up to meet its fate. The Americans in Paris went in a body to the convention to reclaim me, but without success.”
Paine’s imprisonment in France caused a general uproar in America. Future President James Monroe used all of his diplomatic connections to get Paine released in November 1794.
With the publication of Paine’s The Age of Reason — a great part of which he wrote in French prison — the American population turned against him,and he died penniless in New York in 1809.
On this date in 1832, John C. Calhoun (pictured above, in his most famous but hardly most becoming portrait) resigned as Vice President of the United States, the first to do so.