Thomas Paine was a widely influential figure in the 18th century, playing a vital role in the American Revolution and the French Revolution. Born on January 29, 1737, in Thetford, Norfolk, England, Paine grew up in a humble background. Despite his modest upbringing, he went on to become one of history’s most celebrated political thinkers, penning works that influenced the course of human history.
Early Life and Education
Paine was born into a Quaker family in Thetford, Norfolk, England. As a young boy, Paine experienced little formal education, as he was employed as a corset maker’s apprentice at the age of thirteen. In 1759, he met and married his first wife, Mary Lambert. Together they opened a shop in Thetford, but the business failed in 1760. In 1761, Paine moved to London and began working as a writer and propagandist, which would quickly become the defining characteristic of his life’s work.
Career and Achievements
In London, Paine worked for the newspaper, “The London Magazine,” for which he contributed political essays. Paine eventually worked his way up the ranks and became an editor, which boosted his political writings and made his name famous in many political circles. One of his most renowned works was the 1774 pamphlet, “African Slavery in America,” which spoke against slavery and called for its abolition.
Moving to America in 1774, Thomas Paine become involved in the American independence movement after meeting many activists who convinced him of the need to sever Britain’s control over the colonies. He published his most famous pamphlet, “Common Sense,” in 1776, which helped galvanize the support for America’s bid for independence. In his incendiary work, Paine criticized monarchies and argued for democratic rule.
Published anonymously, “Common Sense” was a revelation to many colonial Americans, who previously had been ambivalent or ambivalent in their desire for liberation from British rule. The pamphlet made the case for American independence in an accessible way, and it showed the ideas needed to bring about political change.
In 1777, Paine took on the post of secretary of the congressional committee on foreign affairs, which led him to travel to France, where he met Benjamin Franklin, who encouraged him to learn French to better understand European politics and thinking. During this time, Paine also wrote “The American Crisis,” a series of essays that encouraged the struggle against the British and the support of American independence.
Throughout his time as a political leader in the American revolution, Paine continued to write highly influential works. These included “The Rights of Man” and “The Age of Reason.”
An advocate of democracy, Paine also supported the French Revolution and the establishment of a republic in France, which he saw as in line with democratic ideals. However, Paine’s relation with French revolutionaries started to fall apart when he argued for the monarchy to remain in place, as he did not believe in executing King Louis XVI.
Paine’s eventual return to the United States was marked by his disillusionment with the American government. His later years entailed advocacy for various causes such as social welfare, the abolition of slavery, fair taxation policies, world peace, and deism.
Personal Life and Death
Thomas Paine married twice in his life. His first marriage ended in 1761 when his wife died. He did not have any children from this marriage. His second marriage was to Elizabeth Oliver, who Paine married in 1771. They separated in 1774. Paine also wrote about controversial subjects, which resulted in criticism and many antagonistic responses to his work.
Paine died alone on June 8, 1809, in New York City. Despite his influential work, Thomas Paine was buried in an unmarked grave in the city. It wasn’t until 1876 that a monument was erected to honor him, on the explicit request of the French government.
Influence and Legacy
Thomas Paine’s legacy is one of great political thought and revolutionary action. His books, articles, and pamphlets spoke against monarchies and promoted republican forms of government and individual civil liberties. Paine’s political views continue to have a resounding impact to this day on American democratic ideals and government policy.
Paine’s “Common Sense” and “The Age of Reason” sparked debates that forever altered the political landscape during the American revolution and beyond. His writings continue to be read and studied in political science courses across the world, and his ideas have inspired generations of democratic thinkers worldwide.
Thomas Paine’s influence can be seen in the political philosophies of many revolutionary leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. From his ambitious writings to his championing of human rights, Paine remains one of history’s foremost political philosophers to this day.
Founding Father: Thomas Paine
Unlike many other American Patriots, Thomas Paine was not born in America. He was born in on January 29, 1737, in Thetford, England. Thomas Paine’s father made a living making corsets. Thomas Paine attended Thetford Grammar school but flunked out at the age of 12. When he was 13, he helped his father at the corset shop, but he was not good at that either. At the age of 19, Thomas Paine went to sea.
During these voyages, Thomas Paine realized that he did not want to live that life either. He ended up back in England where he began working as a tax officer. Unfortunately, over four years he was fired twice. However, he published an article in a very influential paper about how military officers should be given raises. However, everyone ignored this appeal.
Thomas Paine’s Trip to America
Two years later, Thomas Paine met Benjamin Franklin. Franklin helped him go to America. The two men both shared a passion for writing, and Thomas Paine was inspired both by Benjamin Franklin as well as the upcoming revolution in America.
Thomas Paine’s first work of writing was African Slavery in America, which disapproved of slavery. A year later, Thomas Paine wrote his most famous work, Common Sense. In this paper, Thomas Paine argued for the colonies’ independence from the British, saying that any government that denies its subject representation should be replaced. Common Sense was read by many people.
Thomas Paine became so passionate by his own words that he joined the Continental Army. He found out once more that he was not very good at something; in this case, it was being a soldier. Thomas Paine kept serving with the army, but he started to write a pamphlet called “The Crisis” which described the American need and cause for independence. The Crisis was so popular that by the time the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine’s name was just as well known as George Washington’s.
Thomas Paine’s Return to England
After the United States began to function as a country, Thomas Paine returned to Europe where he tried to be an inventor. A few years later, the French Revolution began. Thomas Paine supported the French revolutionaries. He wrote “The Rights of Man” to defend the revolution. Because England was worried about Paine supporting another revolution, they outlawed him and ordered his arrest.
Paine ran away to France to join the Revolution. After King Louis XVI was killed, Thomas Paine disagreed with the killing, which made the public dislike him. He was then thrown in prison but was freed in 1794 by the United States Minister to France.
Thomas Paine stayed in France until 1802. He then accepted an offer from President Thomas Jefferson to go back to America. Thomas Paine continued to write articles, many of which went against the beliefs of the Federalists. Thomas Paine died on June 8, 1809, by himself in New York City.
Fun Facts about Thomas Paine
• Thomas Paine was married twice, but he never had any children that lived to adulthood.
• Only six people went to his funeral, and two of these people were former slaves.
• In 1792, he helped write the Constitution for the Republic of France.