Study of Thomas Paine








Thomas Paine


For many years Thomas Paine was the epitome of American histories greatest drawback. In American history there is always that one detail that doesn’t make it into popular curriculum. Whether it be the point of view from the loosing side of a war, to the secret dalliances of a popular politician, to the truth of a times social opinion- the American student is taught only so much. The most proper, popular material makes it in; along with any major facts too commonly known to ignore. Anything else is liable to fall to the wayside without enough support from historians or academia. There is always room for the improvement of materials taught; so said, it would seem there is much more to know about Thomas Paine then is currently taught.
Within the last twenty years there has been a resurgence of interest in both Thomas Paine and his work. The new social consciousness is more in tune with his writings, and his underdog status appeals to many. His blunt style of speech has earned him admiration in many corners; in fact one of President Ronald Regan’s more clever speech writers took to adding exerpts from Paines’ writings into the President’s major addresses. Paine has lately been heralded as “Americas’ first modern intellectual”, and is the subject of numerous books which have come out within the last four years.
Common knowledge of Paine includes his birth in 1737 in Thetford, England, his writing of the Common Sense pamphlet in 1776, and his involvement in the American Revolution. Less common knowledge is his other writings: The Crisis, Rights of War and The Age of Reason; along with his role in the French Revolution. Even further down the path into the obscure is his brief French citizenship, his time in a French prison, and the short period of fourteen months which elapsed between his arrival in the Americas, and the publication of Common Sense.
Paine is nothing if not the son of both perseverance and necessity. His financial woes are the stuff on which young loan sharks are weaned. He grew up the soon of a poor corset maker, and knew only poverty most of his life. His employment track is littered with miss-starts in many fields, including stints as a teacher, a seaman, a tobacco shop owner and at various times a excise man. None of these were to be successful positions for Paine, giving him the start of a grudge towards England and its economy. After surviving one wife and separating from another, Paine was near his perceived end. Yet on the recommendation of a new acquaintance from America he decided to head west to the colonies, in hope of escaping the misery he’d endured in England. With nothing to his name but letters of recommendation (from the American whom he’d met in London), he arrived in Philadelphia, America in 1774. This American happened to be none other then Benjamin Franklin, and the prominence of Paines’ recommender gained him the position of editor of the newly founded Pennsylvanian Magazine. Here, Paine established himself as a radical thinker, a person unafraid to enter into the independence furor. Remembering the hardships he had faced in England, Paine became he ideal American patriot.
In 1776 Paine published the Common Sense pamphlet without signing his name to it. Demanding independence from England and the establishment of a strong American union, the pamphlet found overwhelming support and approval with American colonists. With the revelation of its’ author the pamphlet continued its’ wave of success, drawing commendation from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. In one of the most perfectly timed releases in history, Common Sense was unleashed to a public hungry for direction, and touched upon a raw nerve the size of a revolution. Paine quickly followed up in December of that year with the first in a series of pamphlets entitled The Crisis. It began, “These are the times that try men’s souls...Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered.” These lines were read aloud to Washington’s’ men as they lay shivering in the winter cold. From that point on Paine looked to figure prominently in the American revolution.
Thomas Paine served in the army as a solider, and froze along side the rest of America’s patriots during the winters of 1776