Paine was born in Thetford, England, in 1737, to a Quaker father and an Anglican mother. Thomas Paine was an influential 18th-century writer of essays and pamphlets. Among them were “The Age of Reason,” regarding the place of religion in society; “Rights of Man,” a piece defending the French Revolution; and “Common Sense,” which was published during the American Revolution. “Common Sense,” Paine’s most influential piece, brought his ideas to a vast audience, swaying the otherwise undecided public opinion to the view that independence from the British was a necessity.
Paine received little formal education but did learn to read, write and perform arithmetic. At the age of 13, he began working with his father as a stay maker (the thick rope stays used on sailing ships) in Thetford, a shipbuilding town. To compound his professional hardships, around 1760, Paine’s wife and child both died in childbirth, and his business, that of making stay ropes, went under. In the summer of 1772, Paine published “The Case of the Officers of Excise,” a 21-page article in defense of higher pay for excise officers. It was his first political work, and he spent that winter in London, handing out the 4,000 copies of the article to members of Parliament and other citizens. In the spring of 1774, Paine was fired from the excise office and began to see his outlook as bleak. Luckily, he soon met Benjamin Franklin, who advised him to move to America and provided him with letters of introduction to the soon-to-be-formed nation.
Paine moved back and forth between England and America during his lifetime. He lobbied for the colonies to see their freedom from England. Paine died alone on June 8, 1809. Only six mourners were present at his funeral — half of them formerly enslaved. You can read his full story by clicking HERE.
“A body of men holding themselves accountable to nobody ought not be trusted by anybody”
“The mind once enlightened cannot again become dark.”
“These are the times that try men’s souls.”
“To argue with a man who has renounced the use and authority of reason, and whose philosophy consists in holding humanity in contempt, is like administering medicine to the dead, or endeavoring to convert an atheist by scripture.”
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”
“Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”
“Character is much easier kept than recovered.”