Thomas Paine Biography & Facts
Thomas Paine (born Thomas Pain; February 9, 1737 [O.S. January 29, 1736] – June 8, 1809) was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. He authored Common Sense (1776) and The American Crisis (1776–1783), two of the most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, and helped inspire the Patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain, hitherto an unpopular cause. His ideas reflected Enlightenment-era ideals of transnational human rights.Born in Thetford, Norfolk, Paine emigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin, arriving just in time to participate in the American Revolution. Virtually every rebel read (or listened to a reading of) his 47-page pamphlet Common Sense, proportionally the all-time best-selling American title, which catalysed the rebellious demand for independence from Great Britain. The American Crisis was a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series.
Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. While in England, he wrote Rights of Man (1791), in part a defense of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on Anglo-Irish conservative writer Edmund Burke led to a trial and conviction in absentia in England in 1792 for the crime of seditious libel.
The British government of William Pitt the Younger, worried by the possibility that the French Revolution might spread to Britain, had begun suppressing works that espoused radical philosophies. Paine's work, which advocated the right of the people to overthrow their government, was duly targeted, with a writ for his arrest issued in early 1792. Paine fled to France in September where, despite not being able to speak French, he was quickly elected to the French National Convention. The Girondins regarded him as an ally; consequently, the Montagnards, especially Maximilien Robespierre, regarded him as an enemy.
In December 1793, he was arrested and was taken to Luxembourg Prison in Paris. While in prison, he continued to work on The Age of Reason (1793–1794). James Monroe, a future President of the United States, used his diplomatic connections to get Paine released in November 1794. Paine became notorious because of his pamphlets and attacks on his former allies, who he felt had betrayed him. In The Age of Reason and other writings he advocated Deism, promoted reason and freethought, and argued against institutionalized religions in general and the Christian doctrine in particular. In 1796, he published a bitter open letter to George Washington, whom he denounced as an incompetent general and a hypocrite. He published the pamphlet Agrarian Justice (1797), discussing the origins of property and introduced the concept of a guaranteed minimum income through a one-time inheritance tax on landowners. In 1802, he returned to the U.S. When he died on June 8, 1809, only six people attended his funeral, as he had been ostracized for his ridicule of Christianity and attacks on the nation's leaders.
Early life and education
Thomas Paine was born on January 29, 1736 (NS February 9, 1737), the son of Joseph Pain, a tenant farmer and stay-maker, and Frances (née Cocke) Pain, in Thetford, Norfolk, England. Joseph was a Quaker and Frances an Anglican. Despite claims that Thomas changed the spelling of his family name upon his emigration to America in 1774, he was using "Paine" in 1769, while still in Lewes, Sussex.
He attended Thetford Grammar School (1744–1749), at a time when there was no compulsory education. At the age of 13, he was apprenticed to his father. Following his apprenticeship, aged 19, Paine enlisted and briefly served as a privateer, before returning to Britain in 1759. There, he became a master staymaker, establishing a shop in Sandwich, Kent.On September 27, 1759, 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, also in Lincolnshire, at a salary of £50 per annum. On August 27, 1765, he was dismissed 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 1767, he was appointed to a position in Grampound, Cornwall. Later he asked to leave this post to await a vacancy, and he became a schoolteacher in London.On February 19, 1768, he was appointed to Lewes in Sussex, a town with a tradition of opposition to the monarchy and pro-republican sentiments since the revolutionary decades of the 17th century. Here he lived above the 15th-century Bull House, the tobacco shop of Samuel Ollive and Esther Ollive.Paine first became involved in civic matters when he was based in Lewes. He appears in the Town Book as a member of the Court Leet, the governing body for the town. He was also a member of the parish vestry, an influential local Anglican church group whose responsibilities for parish business would include collecting taxes and tithes to distribute among the poor. On March 26, 1771, at age 34, Paine married Elizabeth Ollive, the daughter of his recently deceased landlord, whose business as a grocer and tobacconist he then entered into.
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 12-page article, and his first political work, spending the London winter distributing the 4,000 copies printed to the Parliament and others. In spring 1774, he was again dismissed from the excise service for being absent from his post without permission. The tobacco shop failed. On April 14, to avoid debtors' prison, he sold his household possessions to pay debts. He formally separated from his wife Elizabeth on June 4, 1774, and moved to London. In September, mathematician, Fellow of the Royal Society, and Commissioner of the Excise George Lewis Scott introduced him to Benjamin Franklin, who was there as a voice for colonial opposition to British colonial rule, especially as it related to the Stamp Act, and the Townshend Acts. He was publisher and editor of the largest American newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette and suggested emigration to Philadelphia. He handed out a letter of recommendation to Paine, who emigrated in October to the American colonies, arriving in Philadelphia on November 30, 1774.
In Pennsylvania Magazine
Paine 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 disemb.... Discover the Thomas Paine popular books. Find the top 100 most popular Thomas Paine books.