Thomas Paine

Author of Common Sense and The Crisis

Through his unparalleled powerful pamphlets Common Sense and The Crisis, Thomas Paine played a critical role in sparking and supporting the American Revolution.

Born in Thetford, England on January 29, 1737, Paine’s eclectic background before the American Revolution included, among other things, careers as a corset maker, merchant seaman, supernumerary officer, excise officer, staymaker, school teacher, and inventor. 

However, although he barely survived the trans-Atlantic voyage, Paine truly found his calling after he emigrated to America (with letters of recommendation from Benjamin Franklin).  He penned Common Sense (1776), which more than any other tract, gave voice to the reasons why the time had come for America to declare independence from the British Empire. 

Within three months, over 120,000 copies of Common Sense were distributed in colonial America, and Paine’s work became the largest selling book (other than the Bible) in the century.  Common Sense had a substantial effect in swaying public opinion in favor of independence.

During the difficult days of the Revolutionary War, Paine wrote The Crisis (1776-1777), which helped solidify patriotric support for the war effort.

Captivated by the events of revolutionary France, Paine went to France and authored The Rights of Man (1791).  Although he was not fluent in French, he was made a deputy of the French National Convention.  During the Terror, he was imprisioned and nearly executed, but was eventually released.

He returned to America and died in New York City on June 8, 1809.

For more, order America’s Survival Guide.

Picture:  Oil painting by Auguste Millière (1880), after an engraving by William Sharp, after a portrait by George Romney (1792).  National Portrait Gallery, London. 



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