Oil painting by Auguste Millière (1880)
|Full name||Thomas Paine|
|Born||February 9, 1737
Thetford, Norfolk, England, Great Britain
|Died||June 8, 1809 (aged 72)
New York, NY, U.S.
|School||Enlightenment, Liberalism, Radicalism, Republicanism|
|Main interests||Religion, Ethics, Politics|
Thomas Paine (February 9, 1737 [O.S. January 29, 1736] – June 8, 1809) was an author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Born in Thetford, England, Paine emigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 in time to participate in the American Revolution. His principal contributions were the powerful, widely-read pamphlet Common Sense (1776), advocating colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and The American Crisis (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. The historian Saul K. Padover in the biography Jefferson: A Great American's Life and Ideas, refers to Paine as "a corsetmaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination."
Paine greatly influenced the French Revolution. He wrote the Rights of Man (1791), a guide to Enlightenment ideas. Despite not speaking French, he was elected to the French National Convention in 1792. The Girondists regarded him as an ally, so, the Montagnards, especially Robespierre, regarded him as an enemy. In December of 1793, he was arrested and imprisoned in Paris, then released in 1794. He became notorious because of The Age of Reason (1793–94), his book advocating deism, promoting reason and freethinking, and arguing against institutionalized religion and Christian doctrines. He also wrote the pamphlet Agrarian Justice (1795), discussing the origins of property, and introduced the concept of a guaranteed minimum income.
Paine remained in France during the early Napoleonic era, but condemned Napoleon's dictatorship, calling him "the completest charlatan that ever existed". In 1802, at President Jefferson's invitation, he returned to America where he died on June 8, 1809. Only six people attended his funeral as he had been ostracized for his criticisms and ridicule of Christianity.
Paine was born February 9, 1737 [O.S. January 29, 1736,] the son of Joseph Pain, or Paine, a Quaker, and Frances (née Cocke), an Anglican, in Thetford, an important market town and coach stage-post, in rural Norfolk, England. Born Thomas Pain, despite claims that he changed his family name upon his emigration to America in 1774, he was using Paine in 1769, whilst still in Lewes, Sussex.
He attended Thetford Grammar School (1744-1749), at a time when there was no compulsory education. At age thirteen, he was apprenticed to his stay-maker father; in late adolescence, he enlisted and briefly served as a privateer, before returning to Britain in 1759. There, he became a master stay-maker, establishing a shop in Sandwich, Kent. On September 27, 1759, Thomas Paine married Mary Lambert. His business collapsed soon after. Mary became pregnant, and, after they moved to Margate, she went into early labour, in which she and their child died.
In July 1761, Paine returned to Thetford to work as a supernumerary officer. In December 1762, he became an excise officer in Grantham, Lincolnshire; in August 1764, he was transferred to Alford, at a salary of £50 per annum. On August 27, 1765, he was fired as an Excise Officer for "claiming to have inspected goods he did not inspect." On July 31, 1766, he requested his reinstatement from the Board of Excise, which they granted the next day, upon vacancy. While awaiting that, he worked as a stay maker in Diss, Norfolk, and later as a servant (per the records, for a Mr. Noble, of Goodman's Fields, and for a Mr. Gardiner, at Kensington). He also applied to become an ordained minister of the Church of England and, per some accounts, he preached in Moorfields.
In 1767, he was appointed to a position in Grampound, Cornwall; subsequently, he asked to leave this post to await a vacancy, thus, he became a schoolteacher in London. On February 19, 1768, he was appointed to Lewes, East Sussex, living above the fifteenth-century Bull House, the tobacco shop of Samuel Ollive and Esther Ollive.
There, Paine first became involved in civic matters, when Samuel Ollive introduced him to the Society of Twelve, a local, élite intellectual group that met semestrally, to discuss town politics. He also was in the influential Vestry church group that collected taxes and tithes to distribute among the poor. On March 26, 1771, at age 34, he married Elizabeth Ollive, his landlord's daughter.
From 1772 to 1773, Paine joined excise officers asking Parliament for better pay and working conditions, publishing, in summer of 1772, The Case of the Officers of Excise, a twenty-one-page article, and his first political work, spending the London winter distributing the 4,000 copies printed to the Parliament and others. In spring of 1774, he was fired from the excise service for being absent from his post without permission; his tobacco shop failed, too. On April 14, to avoid debtor's prison, he sold his household possessions to pay debts. On June 4, he formally separated from wife Elizabeth and moved to London, where, in September, a friend introduced him to Benjamin Franklin, who suggested emigration to British colonial America, and gave him a letter of recommendation. In October, Thomas Paine emigrated from Great Britain to the American colonies, arriving in Philadelphia on November 30, 1774.
He barely survived the transatlantic voyage. The ship's water supplies were bad, and typhoid fever killed five passengers. On arriving at Philadelphia, he was too sick to debark. Benjamin Franklin's physician, there to welcome Paine to America, had him carried off ship; Paine took six weeks to recover his health. He became a citizen of Pennsylvania "by taking the oath of allegiance at a very early period." In January, 1775, he became editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine, a position he conducted with considerable ability.
Paine designed the Sunderland Bridge over the Wear River at Wearmouth, England. It was patterned after the model he made for the Schuylkill River Bridge at Philadelphia in 1787, and the Sunderland arch became the prototype for many subsequent voussoir arches made in iron and steel. He also received a British patent for a single-span iron bridge, developed a smokeless candle, and worked with inventor John Fitch in developing steam engines.
Thomas Paine has a claim to the title The Father of the American Revolution because of Common Sense, the pro-independence monograph pamphlet he anonymously published on January 10, 1776; signed "Written by an Englishman", the pamphlet became an immediate success., it quickly spread among the literate, and, in three months, 100,000 copies sold throughout the American British colonies (with only two million free inhabitants), making it a best-selling work in eighteenth-century America. Paine's original title for the pamphlet was Plain Truth; Paine's friend, pro-independence advocate Benjamin Rush, suggested Common Sense instead.
Paine was not expressing original ideas in Common Sense, but rather employing rhetoric as a means to arouse resentment of the Crown. To achieve these ends, he pioneered a style of political writing suited to the democratic society he envisioned, with Common Sense serving as a primary example. Part of Paine's work was to render complex ideas intelligible to average readers of the day, with clear, concise writing unlike the formal, learned style favored by many of Paine's contemporaries.
Common Sense was immensely popular, but how many people were converted to the cause of independence by the pamphlet is unknown. Paine's arguments were rarely cited in public calls for independence, which suggests that Common Sense may have had a more limited impact on the public's thinking about independence than is sometimes believed. The pamphlet probably had little direct influence on the Continental Congress's decision to issue a Declaration of Independence, since that body was more concerned with how declaring independence would affect the war effort. Paine's great contribution was in initiating a public debate about independence, which had previously been rather muted.
Loyalists vigorously attacked Common Sense; one attack, titled Plain Truth (1776), by Marylander James Chalmers, said Paine was a political quack and warned that without monarchy, the government would "degenerate into democracy". Even some American revolutionaries objected to Common Sense; late in life John Adams called it a "crapulous mass." Adams disagreed with the type of radical democracy promoted by Paine, and published Thoughts on Government in 1776 to advocate a more conservative approach to republicanism.
In the early months of the war Paine published The Crisis pamphlet series, to inspire the colonists in their resistance to the British army. To inspire the enlisted men, General George Washington had The American Crisis read aloud to them. The first Crisis pamphlet begins:
|“||These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated Thomas Paine, The Crisis||”|
In 1777, Paine became secretary of the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs. The following year, he alluded to continuing secret negotiation with France in his pamphlets; the resultant scandal and Paine's conflict with Robert Morris eventually led to Paine's expulsion from the Committee in 1779. However, in 1781, he accompanied John Laurens on his mission to France. Eventually, after much pleading from Paine, New York State recognised his political services by presenting him with an estate, at New Rochelle, N.Y., and Paine received money from Pennsylvania and from the U.S. Congress at George Washington's suggestion. During the Revolutionary War, Paine served as an aide to the important general, Nathanael Greene. Paine's later years established him as "a missionary of world revolution."
Funding the American Revolution with Henry and John Laurens:
According to Daniel Wheeler's "Life and Writings of Thomas Paine," Volume 1 (of 10, Vincent & Parke, 1908) p. 26-27: Thomas Paine accompanied Col. John Laurens to France and is credited with initiating the mission. It landed in France in March 1781 and returned to America in August with 2.5 livres in silver, as part of a "present" of 6 million and a loan of 10 million. The meetings with the French king were most likely conducted in the company and under the influence of Benjamin Franklin. Upon return to the United States with this highly welcomed cargo, Thomas Paine and probably Col. Laurens, "positively objected" that General Washington should propose that Congress remunerate him for his services, for fear of setting "a bad precedent and an improper mode."
In addition, according to an appreciation by Elbert Hubbard in the same volume (p. 314) "In 1781 Paine was sent to France with Colonel Laurens to negotiate a loan. The errand was successful, and Paine then made influential acquaintances, which were later to be renewed. He organized the Bank of North America to raise money to feed and clothe the army, and performed sundry and various services for the colonies."
Henry Laurens (the father of Col. John Laurens) had been the ambassador to the Netherlands, but he was captured by the British on his return trip there. When he was later exchanged for the prisoner Lord Cornwallis (in late 1781), Paine proceeded to the Netherlands to continue the loan negotiations. There remains some question as to the relationship of Henry Laurens and Thomas Paine to Robert Morris as the Superintendent of Finance and his business associate Thomas Willing who became the first president of the Bank of North America (in Jan. 1782). They had accused Morris of profiteering in 1779 and Willing had voted against the Declaration of Independence. Although Morris did much to restore his reputation in 1780 and 1781, the credit for obtaining these critical loans to "organize" the Bank of North America for approval by Congress in December 1781 should go to Henry or John Laurens and Thomas Paine more than to Robert Morris.
Paine bought his only house in 1783 on the corner of Farnsworth Avenue and Church Streets in Bordentown City, New Jersey, and he lived in it periodically until his death in 1809. This is the only place in the world where Paine purchased real estate.
Having taken work as a clerk after his expulsion by Congress, Paine eventually returned to London in 1787, living a largely private life. However, his passion was again sparked by revolution, this time in France, which he visited in December 1790. Edmund Burke, who had supported the American Revolution, changed his views within the decade, and wrote the critical Reflections on the Revolution in France, partially in response to a sermon by Richard Price, the radical minister of Newington Green Unitarian Church. Many pens rushed to defend the Revolution and the Dissenting clergyman, including Mary Wollstonecraft, who published A Vindication of the Rights of Men only weeks after the Reflections. Paine wrote Rights of Man, an abstract political tract critical of monarchies and European social institutions. He completed the text on January 29, 1791. On January 31, he gave the manuscript to publisher Joseph Johnson for publication on February 22. Meanwhile, government agents visited him, and, sensing dangerous political controversy, he reneged on his promise to sell the book on publication day; Paine quickly negotiated with publisher J.S. Jordan, then went to Paris, per William Blake's advice, leaving three good friends, William Godwin, Thomas Brand Hollis, and Thomas Holcroft, charged with concluding publication in Britain. The book appeared on March 13, three weeks later than scheduled, and sold well.
Undeterred by the government campaign to discredit him, Paine issued his Rights of Man, Part the Second, Combining Principle and Practice in February 1792. It detailed a representative government with enumerated social programs to remedy the numbing poverty of commoners through progressive tax measures. Radically reduced in price to ensure unprecedented circulation, it was sensational in its impact and gave birth to reform societies. An indictment for seditious libel followed while government agents followed Paine and instigated mobs, hate meetings, and burnings in effigy. The authorities aimed, with ultimate success, to chase Paine out of Great Britain and then try him in absentia.
In summer of 1792, he answered the sedition and libel charges thus: "If, to expose the fraud and imposition of monarchy . . . to promote universal peace, civilization, and commerce, and to break the chains of political superstition, and raise degraded man to his proper rank; if these things be libellous . . . let the name of libeller be engraved on my tomb".
Paine was an enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution, and was granted, along with Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Benjamin Franklin and others, honorary French citizenship. Despite his inability to speak French, he was elected to the National Convention, representing the district of Pas-de-Calais. He voted for the French Republic; but argued against the execution of Louis XVI, saying that he should instead be exiled to the United States: firstly, because of the way royalist France had come to the aid of the American Revolution; and secondly because of a moral objection to capital punishment in general and to revenge killings in particular.
Regarded as an ally of the Girondins, he was seen with increasing disfavour by the Montagnards who were now in power, and in particular by Robespierre. A decree was passed at the end of 1793 excluding foreigners from their places in the Convention (Anacharsis Cloots was also deprived of his place). Paine was arrested and imprisoned in December 1793.
Before his arrest and imprisonment in France, knowing that he would probably be arrested and executed, Paine, following in the tradition of early eighteenth-century British deism, wrote the first part of The Age of Reason, an assault on organized "revealed" religion combining a compilation of inconsistencies he found in the Bible with his own advocacy of deism, calling for "free rational inquiry" into all subjects, especially religion. The Age of Reason critique on institutionalized religion resulted in only a brief upsurge in deistic thought in America, but would later result in Paine being derided by the public and abandoned by his friends. In his "Autobiographical Interlude," which is found in The Age of Reason between the first and second parts, Paine writes, "Thus far I had written on the 28th of December, 1793. In the evening I went to the Hotel Philadelphia . . . About four in the morning I was awakened by a rapping at my chamber door; when I opened it, I saw a guard and the master of the hotel with them. The guard told me they came to put me under arrestation and to demand the key of my papers. I desired them to walk in, and I would dress myself and go with them immediately."
Being held in France, Paine protested and claimed that he was a citizen of America, which was an ally of Revolutionary France, rather than of Great Britain, which was by that time at war with France. However, Gouverneur Morris, the American ambassador to France, did not press his claim, and Paine later wrote that Morris had connived at his imprisonment. Paine thought that George Washington had abandoned him, and he was to quarrel with Washington for the rest of his life. Years later he wrote a scathing open letter to Washington, accusing him of private betrayal of their friendship and public hypocrisy as general and president, and concluding the letter by saying "the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an impostor; whether you have abandoned good principles or whether you ever had any."
While in prison, Paine narrowly escaped execution. A guard walked through the prison placing a chalk mark on the doors of the prisoners who were due to be sent to the guillotine on the morrow. He placed a 4 on the door of Paine's cell, but Paine's door had been left open to let a breeze in, because Paine was seriously ill at the time. That night, his other three cell mates closed the door, thus hiding the mark inside the cell. The next day their cell was overlooked. "The Angel of Death" had passed over Paine. He kept his head and survived the few vital days needed to be spared by the fall of Robespierre on 9 Thermidor (July 27, 1794).
Paine was released in November 1794 largely because of the work of the new American Minister to France, James Monroe, who successfully argued the case for Paine's American citizenship. In July 1795, he was re-admitted into the Convention, as were other surviving Girondins. Paine was one of only three deputees to oppose the adoption of the new 1795 constitution, because it eliminated universal suffrage, which had been proclaimed by the Montagnard Constitution of 1793. Paine believed that America, under John Adams, had betrayed revolutionary France and so in September 1798 he wrote an article for Le Bien Informé, advising the French government on how best to conquer America.
In 1800, Paine purportedly had a meeting with Napoleon. Napoleon claimed he slept with a copy of Rights of Man under his pillow and went so far as to say to Paine that "a statue of gold should be erected to you in every city in the universe." Paine discussed with Napoleon on how best to invade England and in December 1797 wrote two essays, one of which was pointedly named Observations on the Construction and Operation of Navies with a Plan for an Invasion of England and the Final Overthrow of the English Government, in which he promoted the idea to finance 1000 gunboats to carry a French invading army across the English Channel. In 1804 Paine returned to the subject, writing To the People of England on the Invasion of England advocating the idea.
On noting Napoleon's progress towards dictatorship, he condemned him as: "the completest charlatan that ever existed". Thomas Paine remained in France until 1802, returning to the United States only at President Jefferson's invitation.
Paine returned to the U.S. in the early stages of the Second Great Awakening and a time of great political partisanship. The Age of Reason gave ample excuse for the religiously devout to dislike him, and the Federalists attacked him for his ideas of government stated in Common Sense, for his association with the French Revolution, and for his friendship with President Jefferson. Also still fresh in the minds of the public was his Letter to Washington, published six years before his return.
Paine died at the age of 72, at 59 Grove Street in Greenwich Village, New York City on the morning of June 8, 1809. Although the original building is no longer there, the present building has a plaque noting that Paine died at this location. At the time of his death, most American newspapers reprinted the obituary notice from the New York Citizen, which read in part: "He had lived long, did some good and much harm." Only six mourners came to his funeral, two of whom were black, most likely freedmen. The great orator and writer Robert G. Ingersoll wrote:
Thomas Paine had passed the legendary limit of life. One by one most of his old friends and acquaintances had deserted him. Maligned on every side, execrated, shunned and abhorred – his virtues denounced as vices – his services forgotten – his character blackened, he preserved the poise and balance of his soul. He was a victim of the people, but his convictions remained unshaken. He was still a soldier in the army of freedom, and still tried to enlighten and civilize those who were impatiently waiting for his death. Even those who loved their enemies hated him, their friend – the friend of the whole world – with all their hearts. On the 8th of June, 1809, death came – Death, almost his only friend. At his funeral no pomp, no pageantry, no civic procession, no military display. In a carriage, a woman and her son who had lived on the bounty of the dead – on horseback, a Quaker, the humanity of whose heart dominated the creed of his head – and, following on foot, two negroes filled with gratitude – constituted the funeral cortege of Thomas Paine.
"In the summer of 1803 the political atmosphere was in a tempestuous condition, owing to the widespread accusation that Aaron Burr had intrigued with the Federalists against Jefferson to gain the presidency. There was a Society in New York called "Republican Greens," who, on Independence Day, had for a toast "Thomas Paine, the Man of the People", and who seem to have had a piece of music called the "Rights of Man". Paine was also apparently the hero of that day at White Plains, where a vast crowd assembled".
A few years later, the agrarian radical William Cobbett dug up his bones and transported them back to the UK. The plan was to give Paine a heroic reburial on his native soil, but the bones were still among Cobbett's effects when he died over twenty years later. There is no confirmed story about what happened to them after that, although down the years various people have claimed to own parts of Paine's remains, such as his skull and right hand.
Thomas Paine developed his natural justice beliefs in childhood, while listening to a mob jeering and attacking the town folk being punished in the Thetford stocks. He may also have been influenced by his Quaker father. In The Age of Reason – the treatise supporting deism – he says:
The religion that approaches the nearest of all others to true deism, in the moral and benign part thereof, is that professed by the Quakers . . . though I revere their philanthropy, I cannot help smiling at [their] conceit; . . . if the taste of a Quaker [had] been consulted at the Creation, what a silent and drab-colored Creation it would have been! Not a flower would have blossomed its gaieties, nor a bird been permitted to sing.
Later, his encounters with the Indigenous peoples of the Americas made a deep impression. The ability of the Iroquois to live in harmony with nature while achieving a democratic decision making process, helped him refine his thinking on how to organize society.
He was an early advocate of republicanism and liberalism, dismissing monarchy, and viewing government as a necessary evil. He opposed slavery, proposed universal, free public education, progressive taxation, guaranteed minimum income, and other ideas then considered to be radical.
In the second part of The Age of Reason, about his sickness in prison, he says: ". . . I was seized with a fever, that, in its progress, had every symptom of becoming mortal, and from the effects of which I am not recovered. It was then that I remembered, with renewed satisfaction, and congratulated myself most sincerely, on having written the former part of 'The Age of Reason'". This quotation encapsulates its gist:
The opinions I have advanced . . . are the effect of the most clear and long-established conviction that the Bible and the Testament are impositions upon the world, that the fall of man, the account of Jesus Christ being the Son of God, and of his dying to appease the wrath of God, and of salvation, by that strange means, are all fabulous inventions, dishonorable to the wisdom and power of the Almighty; that the only true religion is Deism, by which I then meant, and mean now, the belief of one God, and an imitation of his moral character, or the practice of what are called moral virtues – and that it was upon this only (so far as religion is concerned) that I rested all my hopes of happiness hereafter. So say I now – and so help me God.
About religion, The Age of Reason says:
I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church.
All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.
He also wrote An Essay on the Origin of Free-Masonry (1803-1805), about the Bible being allegorical myth describing astrology:
The Christian religion is a parody on the worship of the sun, in which they put a man called Christ in the place of the sun, and pay him the adoration originally payed to the sun.
He described himself as deist, saying:
How different is [Christianity] to the pure and simple profession of Deism! The true Deist has but one Deity, and his religion consists in contemplating the power, wisdom, and benignity of the Deity in his works, and in endeavoring to imitate him in everything moral, scientifical, and mechanical.
Paine was once often credited with writing "African Slavery in America", the first article proposing the emancipation of African slaves and the abolition of slavery. It was published on March 8, 1775 in the Postscript to the Pennsylvania Journal and Weekly Advertiser (aka The Pennsylvania Magazine and American Museum). Citing a lack of evidence that Paine was the author of this anonymously published essay, some scholars (Eric Foner and Alfred Owen Aldridge) no longer consider this one of his works. By contrast, John Nichols speculates that his "fervent objections to slavery" led to his exclusion from power during the early years of the Republic.
His last, great pamphlet, Agrarian Justice, he published in winter of 1795, further developing the ideas in the Rights of Man, about how land ownership separated the majority of people from their rightful, natural inheritance, and means of independent survival. Contemporarily, his proposal is deemed a form of basic Income Guarantee. The U.S. Social Security Administration recognizes Agrarian Justice as the first American proposal for an old-age pension; per Agrarian Justice:
In advocating the case of the persons thus dispossessed, it is a right, and not a charity . . . [Government must] create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.
(Note that £10 and £15 would be worth about £800 and £1,200 in today's money.) 
Thomas Paine's writing greatly influenced his contemporaries and, especially, the American revolutionaries. His books inspired philosophic and working-class radicals in the U.K., and U.S. liberals, libertarians, feminists, democratic socialists, social democrats, anarchists, freethinkers, and progressives often claim him as an intellectual ancestor. Many of his works have also been an inspiration for rapidly expanding secular humanism. His Deism and his writings on Deism have inspired the creation of the World Union of Deists and the writing of the book Deism: A Revolution in Religion, A Revolution in You.
Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Edison respectfully read his works. Lincoln's law partner, William Herndon, reports that he (Lincoln) wrote a defence of Paine's deism in 1835, and friend Samuel Hill burned it to save Lincoln's political career; and of him, Thomas Edison said:
I have always regarded Paine as one of the greatest of all Americans. Never have we had a sounder intelligence in this republic . . . It was my good fortune to encounter Thomas Paine's works in my boyhood . . . it was, indeed, a revelation to me to read that great thinker's views on political and theological subjects. Paine educated me, then, about many matters of which I had never before thought. I remember, very vividly, the flash of enlightenment that shone from Paine's writings, and I recall thinking, at that time, 'What a pity these works are not today the schoolbooks for all children!' My interest in Paine was not satisfied by my first reading of his works. I went back to them time and again, just as I have done since my boyhood days.
At the war's end, the Congress gave Thomas Paine a farm in New Rochelle, N.Y., for services rendered. On it are located the Thomas Paine Cottage and the Thomas Paine Historical Society museum. In the United Kingdom a statue of Thomas Paine (quill pen and inverted copy of Rights of Man in hand), stands in King Street, Thetford, Norfolk, his birth place. Moreover, in Thetford, the Sixth form is named after him. Thomas Paine was ranked #34 in the 100 Greatest Britons 2002 extensive Nationwide poll conducted by the BBC 
At Bronx Community College, there is a bust of Thomas Paine in their Hall of Fame of Great Americans, and there are statues of Paine in Morristown and Bordentown, New Jersey, and in the Parc Montsouris, in Paris. The town of Diss has a Thomas Paine Street. In Paris, there is a plaque in the street where he lived from 1797 to 1802, that says: "Thomas PAINE / 1737–1809 / Englishman by birth / American by adoption / French by decree". Yearly, between 4 and 14 July, the Lewes Town Council in the United Kingdom celebrates the life and work of Thomas Paine.
Though Age of Reason resulted in only a brief upsurge in deistic thought in America, Paine's critique on institutionalized religion advocating rational thinking inspired and guided many British freethinkers of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, such as William Cobbett, George Holyoake, Charles Bradlaugh and Bertrand Russell; judging by the works of contemporary British writers like Christopher Hitchens, his influence and spirit endure.
<1—35. Henry Yorke, Letters From France, 2 vols (London: Symonds, 1804), 2:396. This the original primary reference for this quotation.
Thomas Paine (29 January 1737 – 8 June 1809) was an English political writer, theorist, and activist who claimed American citizenship (a court later rejected his claim) and was given French citizenship. He wrote three of the most influential and controversial works of the 18th Century: Common Sense, The Rights of Man and The Age of Reason.
THOMAS PAINE (1737-1809), English author, was born at Thetford, Norfolk, on the 29th of January 1737, the son of a Quaker staymaker. After several years at sea and after trying various occupations on land, Paine took up his father's trade in London, where he supplemented his meagre grammar school education by attending science lectures. He succeeded in 1762 in gaining an appointment in the excise, but was discharged for neglect of duty in 1765. Three years later, however, he received another appointment, at Lewes in Sussex. He took a vigorous share in the debates of a local Whig club, and in 1772, he wrote a pamphlet embodying the grievances of excisemen and supporting their demands for an increase of pay. In 1774 he was dismissed from the service for absence without leave - in order to escape his creditors.
A meeting with Benjamin Franklin in London was the turning point in his life. Franklin] provided him with letters to his son-in-law, Richard Bache, and many of the leaders in the colonies' resistance to the mother country, then at an acute stage. Paine sailed for America in 1774. Bache introduced him to Robert Aitkin, whose Pennsylvania Magazine he helped found and edited for eighteen months. On the 9th of January 1776 Paine published a pamphlet entitled Common Sense, a telling array of arguments for separation and for the establishment of a republic. His argument was that independence was the only consistent line to pursue, that "it must come to that some time or other"; that it would only be more difficult the more it was delayed, and that independence was the surest road to union. Written in simple convincing language, it was read everywhere, and the open movement to independence dates from its publication. Washington said that it "worked a powerful change in the minds of many men." Leaders in the New York Provincial Congress considered the advisability of answering it, but came to the conclusion that it was unanswerable. When war was declared, and fortune at first went against the colonists, Paine, who was then serving with General Greene as volunteer aide-de-camp, wrote the first of a series of influential tracts called The Crisis, of which the opening words, "These are the times that try men's souls," became a battle-cry. Paine's services were recognized by an appointment to be secretary of the commission sent by Congress to treat with the Indians, and a few months later to be secretary of the Congressional committee of foreign affairs. In 1779, however, he committed an indiscretion that brought him into trouble. He published information gained from his official position, and was compelled to resign. He was afterwards clerk of the Pennsylvania legislature, and accompanied John Laurens during his mission to France. His services were eventually recognized by the state of New York by a grant of an estate at New Rochelle, and from Pennsylvania and, at Washington's suggestion, from Congress he received considerable gifts of money.
In 1787 he sailed for Europe with the model of an iron bridge he had designed. This was publicly exhibited in Paris and London, and attracted great crowds. In England he determined to "open the eyes of the people to the madness and stupidity of the government." His first efforts in the Prospects on the Rubicon (1787) were directed against Pitt's war policy, and towards securing friendly relations with France. When Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France appeared, in 1790, Paine at once wrote his answer, The Rights of Man first part appeared on the r3th of March 1791, and had an enormous circulation before the government took alarm and endeavoured to suppress it, thereby exciting intense curiosity to see it, even at the risk of heavy penalties. Those who know the book only by hearsay as the work of a furious incendiary will be surprised at the dignity, force and temperance of the style; it was the circumstances that made it inflammatory. Pitt "used to say," according to Lady Hester Stanhope, "that Tom Paine was quite in the right, but then he would add, `What am I to do? As things are, if I were to encourage Tom Paine's opinions we should have a bloody revolution.'" Paine was indicted for treason in May 1792, but before the trial came off he was elected by the department of Calais to the French convention, and escaped into France, followed by a sentence of outlawry. The first years that he spent in France form a curious episode in his life. He was enthusiastically received, but as he knew little of the language translations of his speeches had to be read for him. He was bold enough to speak and vote for the "detention of Louis during the war and his perpetual banishment afterwards," and he pointed out that the execution of the king would alienate American sympathy. He incurred the suspicion of Robespierre, was thrown into prison, and escaped the guillotine by an accident. Before his arrest he had completed the first part of the Age of Reason, the publication of which made an instant change in his position on both sides of the Atlantic, the indignation in the United States being as strong as in England. The Age of Reason can now be estimated calmly. It was written from the point of view of a Quaker who did not believe in revealed religion, but who held that "all religions are in their nature mild and benign" when not associated with political systems. Intermixed with the coarse unceremonious ridicule of what he considered superstition and bad faith are many passages of earnest and even lofty eloquence in favour of a pure morality founded on natural religion. The work in short - a second part, written during his ten months' imprisonment, was published after his release - represents the deism of the 18th century in the hands of a rough, ready, passionate controversialist.
At the downfall of Robespierre, Paine was restored to his seat in the convention, and served until it adjourned in October 1795. In 1796 he published a long letter to Washington, attacking his military reputation and his presidential policy with inexcusable bitterness. In 1802 Paine sailed for America, but while his services in behalf of the colonies were gratefully remembered, his Age of Reason and his attack on Washington had alienated many of his friends. He died in New York on the 8th of June 1809, and was buried at New Rochelle, but his body was in 1819 removed to England by William Cobbett.
See the biography by Moncure D. Conway (1892) .
|Full name||Thomas Paine|
|School||Enlightenment, Radicalism, Classical liberalism, Republicanism|
|Main interests||Ethics, Politics|
Thomas Paine (January 29, 1737 – June 8, 1809) was an English pamphleteer, revolutionary, radical, inventor, and intellectual. He lived and worked in Britain until he was 37, when he emigrated to the British American colonies during American Revolution. His main contribution was the powerful, widely-read pamphlet Common Sense (1776), advocating colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and of The American Crisis (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. Thomas Paine after the American Revolution wrote the Age of Reason. This pamphlet advocated for the usage of reason when it came to religious claims and was critical of organized religion. Paine along with other American founders such as Thomas Jefferson and James Madison were supporters of reason when it comes to religion in lieu of revelation. Paine was part of the greater Age of Enlightenment movement that dated back to about the early 17th century.
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