Thomas Paine was born on January 29, 1737, in Thetford,
England, it was a town of about 2,000 people. He did not go through much
schooling., but he graduated from grammar school at 13.
In September of 1759 he married an orphan, Mary
Lambert. In 1760, after one year, Mary and the baby died during child birth.
Thomas became depressed.
Mary's father had been an excise officer that
collected tax on beer, wine, liquor and other products. It was an easy revenue
for Britain. Paine was encouraged to take this profession, and in 1761 he became
an assistant officer. In 1764 he made it to be a full officer. In 1765 he was
discharged for signing papers of inspection without inspecting the person's
While traveling in London, he met Ben Franklin who was
meeting with the British Government concerning the colonies. Paine was asked to
come to the colonies.
An epidemic of typhoid broke out while on the voyage.
The epidemic killed five people on board. When the journey was over, Paine could
not get out of his bed. If had not been for a Dr. Kearsley, who was an
acquaintance of Ben Franklin, Paine might have died. Dr. Kearsley drove to the
dock, picked up Paine and took him back to his home and cared for him for six
When he arrived in Philadelphia he became an editor
for the Pennsylvania Magazine and also published anonymous writings. One was
African Slavery in America in which he opposed slavery in America.
He published the 50-page pamphlet, Common Sense, on
January 10, 1776. It talked about how the colonies received no recognition from
Britain. It also called for the colonies to become independent and establish a
government of their own. He sold 500,000 copies.
Paine wrote many other pamphlets from 1776 to 1783
entitled The American crisis. These words inspired the people who fought in the
revolution. It included the famous line "These are the times that try men's
George Washington ordered that these pamphlets be read
to his troops in hope that it would inspire them to fight for their rights.
In 1777 the Second Continental Congress appointed
Paine the Secretary of the Committee of Foreign Affairs. He lost his job during
a political argument. He remained unemployed until November when he became a
clerk in the Pennsylvania legislature.
Paine returned to Great Britain in 1787. In 1791 and
1792 he published The Rights of Man. This pamphlet lost him many friends.
A million and a half copies were sold in England alone. The uproar in England
lead the British Government to indict Paine for treason.
In France he was elected a deputy to the National
Convention. By facing the exile of King Louis XVI rather than the choosing
execution he offended the French lawyer and political leader Maxilien de
Robespierre and was imprisoned from December 1793 until November 1794. In 1802
he returned to the U.S., with the help of President Thomas Jefferson. When he
arrived he was an outcast. He wandered from place to place with bad health until
he died on June 8, 1809. He was buried on his farm in New Rochelle.
Ten years later a journalist William Cobbett moved his
remains to England. Somewhere from his farm in America to England his body was
Coolidge, Olivia. Thomas Paine, Revolutionary.
New York: Berne Convention. 1969.
Aldridge, Alfred O. Man of Reason. New York: J.B. Lippincott Company.
Edwards, Samuel. Rebel!. Washington D.C.: Praeger Publishers. 1974 Thomas
Paine. Microsoft Encarta 97 Encyclopedia. 1996
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