Thomas Paine    1737-1809    Political Philosopher and Writer  

 

 

The son of a Quaker corset maker, he practiced his father's trade and then worked as an excise tax collector. His father's religion undoubtedly influenced Paine's humanitarianism, and a strong interest in Newtonian science helped him develop a hatred for governments that rested on hereditary privilege.  Paine immigrated to Philadelphia in 1774 and soon became acquainted with advocates of political change. In January 1776, he published Common Sense, the first pamphlet to advocate American independence.   For the next several years, Paine threw himself into the struggle for independence, writing the Crisis papers (which begin with the famous phrase, "These are the times that try men's souls") to bolster the morale of Washington's army. Returning to Europe in 1787, Paine soon entered the political debate launched by the French Revolution.   Charged with seditious libel for advocating an end to monarchy in Britain, Paine fled to France, where he became one of a handful of foreigners elected to the National Convention. His opposition to the execution of the king alienated the Jacobeans, and when they came to power, Paine found himself in prison.   After his return to America in 1802, Paine came under constant assault by evangelical Christians for his deist writings. Only six mourners attended the funeral of the man who had once inspired millions to think in new ways about the world. But Paine's writings became part of the intellectual foundation for nineteenth-century radicalism.

-parts taken from, Eric Foner, Tom Paine and Revolutionary America (1976); David F. Hawke, Paine (1974).

 

         

 

 

Links about Thomas Paine                                                                                                                                 

Thomas Paine Institute
A non-profit educational institute, international in scope; provides information and research on the life and influences of Thomas Paine.

Paine, Thomas - Liberty Online's Thomas Paine Library
American political science resource; presents a brief biography of the philosopher and offers the complete text of selected works.

Paine, Thomas - Liberty  www.pbs.org/liberty  read about one of the men who inspired the American Revolution through his writings. Includes a video clip from the PBS special.

 

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