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The Life and Work of Thomas Paine Essay (Biography)

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2022

Let us start by saying that it is a commonly known fact that concrete people create history and they can make the history of the whole humanity turn this or that way. In the course of the development of human society there were a lot of people who were really significant. One of them was Thomas Paine.

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was an author, intellectual, revolutionary and he was even called one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. John Ferling called him “a skilled artisan, sometime bureaucrat, drifter, and lethargic visionary”1. It is known that his life was full of numerous challenges, victories and defeats. Historians say that he was a very temperamental man and this can be easily proved by the following quotation:

Let them call me a rebel and welcome, I feel no concern from it; but I should suffer the misery of devils, were I to make a whore of my soul by swearing allegiance to one whose character is that of a Scottish, stupid, stubborn, worthless, brutish man.2

Thomas Paine was born in England in a poor family and lived and worked there until age 37 when he abandoned his motherland “hoping at age thirty-seven to begin life anew”1. He emigrated to the British American colonies due to Benjamin Franklin’s support. It must be admitted that Paine adored him. Paine’s work as an editor of “Pennsylvania Magazine” (1775-1777) must be stressed, because it influenced the atmosphere of indecision that was characteristic of that time. His pamphlet “Common Sense” (1776) suggested arguments and proofs that supported American independence.

His pro-revolutionary pamphlet series under the title “The American Crisis” (1776–1783) also deserves mentioning, because it was so impressive that G. Washington gave an order to read it to soldiers to support their fighting spirit

In 1787 Thomas Paine came to France, in 1791 he published the first part of the work “Rights of Man”, in which he welcomed and supported The French Revolution and gave grounds and reasons for his idea that republic had a lot of advantages in comparison with monarchy. For Paine “the king was above all a symbol of an infuriating paradox”3. Paine tried to inspire English people to fight against and to dethrone monarchy as it had been done in France. In Great Britain he was accused of treachery and he had to escape to France where he became the member of The National Convention, despite not speaking French.

In December, 1793 after the usurpation of power by Robespierr’s supporters Thomas Paine was imprisoned for the term of ten months on the ground that he was against French monarchy. He was released in 1794. He became notorious because of his work “The Age of Reason” (1794-1796) that was advocating deism. Those people in America who supported monarchy proclaimed this book by Paine “the Bible of atheism” and blasphemy. Jefferson in his preface to “The Human Rights” asserted that his principles coincided with Paine’s political views. That was why Pain’s works became frequently attacked and criticized, because some people tried to harm Jefferson. At the same time liberals in America supported Thomas Paine and they even used his works as textbooks in educational programs for adults.

Paine remained in France during the early Napoleonic era. In 1800 Jefferson became President of the USA and he asked Thomas Paine to return to America. In 1802, at President Jefferson’s invitation, Paine returned to America where he died in 1809.

Works Cited

Downes, Paul. Democracy, Revolution, and Monarchism in Early American Literature. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

Ferling, John. A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

Paine, Thomas. The American Crisis. Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing, 2004.

Footnotes

  1. Ferling, John. A Leap in the Dark: The Struggle to Create the American Republic. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003) 150.
  2. Paine, Thomas. The American Crisis. (Whitefish: Kessinger Publishing, 2004) 8.
  3. Downes, Paul. Democracy, Revolution, and Monarchism in Early American Literature. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002) 54.3 Downes, Paul. Democracy, Revolution, and Monarchism in Early American Literature. (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2002) 54.
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