|"The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value. I love the man that can smile in trouble, that can gather strength from distress and grow brave by reflection. 'Tis the business of little minds to shrink; but he whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves his conduct, will pursue his principles unto death."|
Thomas Paine was born on January 29, 1737 at Thetford, Norfolk in England. His parents were Quakers. He left school at the age of thirteen with only a basic education to work with his father who was a "stay-maker." At eighteen in 1755 he went to sea. In April 1759 he decided to stay at Sandwich to became a master stay-maker and he got married. His wife died the next year shortly after moving to Margate. In 1761 he took work in the excise office of the government, but was fired twice from his positions.
In 1771, he the daughter of his landlord, Elizabeth Ollive. In 1772 he wrote a small pamphlet, The Case of the Officers of Excise, that discussed the evils of tax collection. This was probably the cause of him being fired the second time from the excise office of the government. His wife also left him.
When he was 37, he met Benjamin Franklin in London, who suggested he try living in the American colonies. Paine landed at Philadelphia with letters of recommendation from Benjamin Franklin on November 30, 1774.
Thomas Paine became a writer for the first issue of the Pennsylvania Magazine, which was published in Philadelphia in January, 1775. He then became the editor.
When he arrived in Philadelphia, Thomas Paine saw that there was a lot of tension among the Colonists. The Boston Tea Party had already happened and the Intolerable Acts of King George III had just become effective in June. Thomas Paine strongly felt the Colonists had a right to rebel against a government that taxed them without any representation in the government that decided what would taxed and how much they would me taxed.
On January 10, 1776 Paine wrote his famous Common Sense but it was not published until February 14, 1776. He used plain, simple common sense in his writing to show the Colonists they need to declare their independence from England. 500,000 copies of Common Sense were sold and even the colonists still loyal to England were even starting to think about independence. In some ways, Common Sense was the stepping stone to the Declaration of Independence.
From August, 1776 to January, 1777, he was a volunteer soldier in the Continental Army. Thomas Paine was a volunteer in the Continental Army. Between 1776 and 1783 he wrote sixteen "American Crisis" papers. These papers encouraged the Patriot army to continue their fight for independence and Paine became very respected.
In 1777, he was named Secretary of the Committee of Foreign Affairs in Congress, but had to resign in 1779 because he had given away secret information. In November 1779 he became a clerk in the Pennsylvania Assembly and continued to work on his writings. He became a publicist. He criticized slavery as being inhumane in his African Slavery in America published in the spring of 1775. He was also co-editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine.
In 1781, he traveled to France to negotiate a loan of 6,000,000 livres for the newly formed United States. He returned on August 25. In February, 1782, he took a job with the Secretary of Foreign Affairs and earned a salary of $800 a year, which was a very good salary at that time. In 1784, the State of New York gave him a house and 277 acres of land in New Rochelle. He received 500 pounds of sterling from Pennsylvania in 1785 and in October of that year Congress gave him $3,000. This made him a very rich man who really didn't have to work any more.
In 1787, he left for England to raise funds to build a bridge he had designed. When the French Revolution broke out, his philosophical nature got him involved in it. He became a citizen of France and was elected to the National Assembly. From March 1791 to February 1792, he wrote his famous work, Rights of Man. He defended the French Revolution and like in the colonies was against a strong government. The Rights of Man was banned in England, because it talked against monarchies.
In 1783 he voted against the executing King Louis XVI and was put in prison on December 28, 1793 and remained there until November 4, 1794. During this time he spent in prison he began writing his Age of Reason. It was because of this book that he is considered an atheist.
On October 30, 1802, he returned to America at the invitation of Thomas Jefferson, who respected and admired his works. His friends had taken very good care of his property and he was considered very wealthy. The people had forgotten his work as a revolutionist and he was better known as an atheist because of his book Age of Reason. He had no friends and lived a very lonely life. He concentrated on his writings and wrote a lot against the Federalists and about religious superstitions.
He died in New York City on June 8, 1809 at the age of 72. He was buried on his farm in New Rochelle, but in 1819 William Cobbett had them moved to England. Even in his death, Thomas Paine was ridiculed. The newspapers printed: "He had lived long, did some good and much harm."