Paine, Thomas
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Paine, Thomas (1737-1809)

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

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Revolutionary writer

Background. Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England, on 29 January 1737. The son of a corsetiere, he was apprenticed to his father for three years before running away at age 16 to sail on a British privateer in the Seven Years War. Returning to London, he worked as a corsetiere, held a minor government post, and taught school briefly before securing a post as an excise officer. His first marriage ended with his wifes death; a second marriage ended in separation. Paines wages as an excise officer were too low to support his family; the family shop barely kept them alive. At the request of other excise officers, Paine drew up a memorial urging Parliament to raise their wages, presenting it in 1773. Parliament was not persuaded, and Paines superiors fired him. Paine had to sell the shop to escape imprisonment for debt.

Flight to America. He boldly called on Benjamin Franklin, who thought Paine might make a good clerk, or assistant tutor in a school, or assistant surveyor in Philadelphia. With this reference Paine landed in America in November 1774, determined to start his life anew. He found work with printer Robert Aitken, publisher of the Pennsylvania Magazine, which had six hundred subscribers. Within a few months Paines vigorous literary style had attracted more readers, and circulation increased to more than fifteen hundred. Paines essays called for an end not only to the slave trade but also to slavery, and he attacked British colonial policies both in America and in India. Encouraged by Franklin and Benjamin Rush to write a history of the dispute between England and her American colonies, Paine published Common Sense, on 10 January 1776.

Common Sense. More than one-half million copies of Common Sense circulated in the colonies, and long excerpts appeared in newspapers and magazines. The real importance of Common Sense lay not so much in its vigorous call for independence as in its call for leveling the old order and starting anew. Most Americans believed that governments evolved naturally from society, and the English government, for example, reflected the countrys social organization. This, Paine said, was wrong. Society and government were two different things. Society in every state is a blessing; but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.... Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise. Paine called for independence, but he also urged Americans to reject the British model of government, which gave too much power to the king and the aristocrats.

Model Governments. The whole premise of a balanced constitution, Paine said, was wrong. The British constitution worked only because the Commons were able to check the aristocrats and the king; if there were no king or aristocrats, it would be unnecessary to check the Commons. Americans should construct new governments that were not modeled on the British constitution: their governments should have a single-house legislature, and instead of having governors who could become tyrants, it should have the executive as a committee chosen by the legislature for a limited term. Pennsylvania adopted a government on Paines model. Common Sense had a profound influence on American opinion, and it helped convince Americans that they were not simply fighting for home rule or for their rights as English people. Instead they were fighting for essential human rights that could only come with independence. The Americans could make a break with the past, and with the British empire, and they should do it immediately.

The Crisis. Paine published Common Sense at a high-point of the American campaign. Though independence had not been declared, Washington had forced the British to evacuate Boston; royal authority was collapsing in all the American colonies; and an army led by Benedict Arnold was laying siege to Quebec. But by the end of 1776 the situation had changed. The Canadian expedition had failed; the British had captured New York; and Washingtons army was driven through New Jersey and into Pennsylvania. In December 1776 the British fleet threatened Philadelphia, and Congress fled to Baltimore. Paine, enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment, accompanying Washingtons retreating army in what seemed to be the final moments of the struggle, sat by the campfire and wrote a new pamphlet addressed to the problems of this moment. On Christmas Eve, Washington had his troops assemble to listen to the first four essays of Paines new pamphlet, The American Crisis (17761777), before they were rowed across the Delaware to surprise the British at Trenton.

The Times that Try Mens Souls. These are the times that try mens souls, Paine began. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered;... 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]t would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Paines pamphlet rallied Washingtons troops, whose surprise victories at Trenton and Princeton in turn rallied public opinion. Paine would publish fourteen Crisis essays over the next seven years, all designed to strengthen American resolve and to comment on specific issues of a moment. His final number, published on the eighth anniversary of the battle of Lexington, 19 April 1783, declared that The times that tried mens souls, are overand the greatest and completest revolution the world ever knew, gloriously and happily accomplished. Paine urged the American people to adopt a stronger central government that could protect their liberty against a hostile world.

After the Revolution. During the war Paine served in a number of political positions, as secretary to Congresss Committee on Foreign Affairs, and as clerk of the Pennsylvania assembly. As clerk, in 1780 Paine drafted the preamble to Pennsylvanias law abolishing slavery, a cause he had advocated in his first months in America. Paine continued to write on political questions, defending the Bank of North America and criticizing the citizens of Rhode Island for scuttling the proposed five percent impost duty. Paine was committed to the independence of America, and he had little patience with local political grievances that he felt detracted from American unity and strength. Paine also turned more attention to scientific matters, trying to develop a smokeless candle and inventing an iron bridge that would not require piers to support its span. To perfect the bridge Paine sailed for Europe in April 1787. He expected to be gone for about one year, but he would not return to America until 1802. After visiting his mother and British Whigs Edmund Burke and Charles Fox, Paine was invited by the Marquis de Lafayette to visit France. Paine met with Thomas Jefferson, American minister to France, and Lafayette, offering advice on a new constitution for France, and Paine helped draft Frances Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. When the Bastille fell in 1789, Lafayette entrusted its key to Paine, who was to present it to George Washington (the key now hangs at Mount Vernon).

Paine and Burke. On a visit to London in 1790 Paine was stunned to read Edmund Burkes speech denouncing the French Revolution. Burke, who had warmly and bravely supported the American cause, believed that the French Revolution was a mistake. Governments, Burke believed, evolved from the social customs and traditions of a people. Without a government to restrain men from injuring one another, the French would collapse into anarchy and ultimately tyranny. Paine was outraged at Burkes attack, and later in the year, when Burke published his Reflections on the French Revolution (1790), Paine responded with a vigorous defense, Rights of Man (17911792). Paine not only vindicated the French Revolution but also argued for the power of all people to construct whatever kind of government they chose. This was the fundamental premise of Common Sense, and Paine held true to the revolutionary cause. Paine won the long-term historical argument: men and women can form their own governments. But for France, Burke was a far more able prophet since the French Revolution became a bloody reign of anarchy followed by military dictatorship.

Arrest. Paine was charged with seditious libel in England, and he fled to France, where he was elected to the French Convention. He arrived in September 1792, days before the Convention proclaimed France a republic. Paine welcomed this, but he opposed the execution of Louis XVI, fearing it would give England a pretext to declare war on France. When the radical Jacobins overthrew Paines more moderate faction, he stopped attending the Convention, and he was arrested on 18 December 1793. He narrowly escaped the guillotine and nearly died in prison. The American minister to France, James Monroe, secured Paines release in November 1794.

Final Pamphlets. Paine recovered from his imprisonment at Monroes home, writing two more pamphlets: The Age of Reason (17941795), an attack on organized religion, and Agrarian Justice (1797), a call for the redistribution of wealth. The Age of Reason brought down on Paine the charge of atheism as he tried to demonstrate that the Bible was not divinely inspired but was the work of men intent on maintaining power. He tried to demolish the institutional church, which he felt had conspired with wealth and privilege to oppress humankind. The attack on religion alienated Paine from many Americans, including Samuel Adams, who supported his political views. He also criticized Presidents Washington and Adams for their pro-British and anti-French policies, which led to his further estrangement from many Americans. President Thomas Jefferson invited Paine to return to America in 1802, and Paine spent his last years on a farm in New Rochelle, New York. Paine died on 8 June 1809. Two decades later English journalist William Cobbett had Paines body exhumed, to be reburied in England. Cobbetts plans for a suitable memorial to Paine fell through, and Paines body disappeared.

Sources

Bernard Bailyn, Faces of Revolution: Personalities and Themes in the Struggle for American Independence (New York: Vintage, 1992);

Philip S. Foner, editor, The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, 2 volumes (New York: Citadel Press, 1945).

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Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was an English-born journalist and Revolutionary propagandist. His writings convinced many American colonists of the need for independence.

Thomas Paine came to America in 1774, an unknown and insignificant Englishman. Yet 2 years later he stood at the center of the stage of history, a world figure, an intimate of great men, and a pamphleteer extraordinary.

Paine was born in Thetford, England, on Jan. 29, 1737, the son of a poor farmer and corsetmaker. He attended the local school until, at the age of 13, he withdrew to help his father. For the next 24 years he failed or was unhappy in every job he tried. He went to sea at 19, lived in a variety of places, and was for a time a corsetmaker like his father, then a tobacconist, grocer, and teacher. His first wife died in 1760, a year after their marriage; he married again in 1771 but separated 3 years later. His appointment as excise collector in 1762 was lost in 1765 because of an improper entry in his reports. Reinstated a year later, he was dismissed again in 1774, probably because he wrote a petition to Parliament for higher salaries for excisemen.

Journalist in America

Paine's move to America resulted from a London meeting with Benjamin Franklin, who provided letters of introduction. Paine arrived in Philadelphia in November 1774 and began writing for the Pennsylvania Magazine, of which he became editor for 6 months. His contributions included an attack on slavery and the slave trade. His literary eloquence received recognition with the appearance of his 79-page pamphlet titled Common Sense (1776). Here was a powerful exhortation for immediate independence. Americans had been quarreling with Parliament; Paine now redirected their case toward monarchy and to George III himself—a "hardened, sullen tempered Pharaoh." The pamphlet revealed Paine's facility as a phrasemaker—"The Sun never shined on a cause of greater worth"; "Oh ye that love mankind … that dare oppose not only tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth!"—but it was also buttressed by striking diplomatic, commercial, and political arguments from separation from Britain.

Common Sense was an instantaneous success. Newspapers in other colonies reprinted all or part of it. It was translated into German and reprinted in England, Scotland, Holland, and France. Its American sale of 120, 000 copies in 3 months gave it a circulation equivalent to over 6 million today. It was hailed by George Washington for working a "powerful change" in sentiment toward Britain. Clearly, it prepared Americans for the Declaration of Independence a few months later.

For the remainder of the Revolution, Paine's energies remained with the American cause. He served with Washington's army during the retreat across the Jersies; the soldiers' dispiritment lay behind his powerful The Crisis papers, 13 of which appeared between December 1776 and April 1783. Again Paine's phrasemaking was impressive: "These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will … shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman." In later papers Paine attacked Tories, profiteers, inflationists, and counterfeiters.

Paine made little money from his journalistic successes. For 2 years he was secretary to Congress's Committee on Foreign Affairs. When he lost that post in 1779 for disclosing confidential data, Pennsylvania, whose 1776 Constitution he had helped establish, appointed him clerk of the Assembly. In this capacity he wrote the preamble to the state's law abolishing slavery. When Washington appealed for supplies, Paine organized a solicitation, contributed $500 from his own meager salary, and helped organize the Bank of North America to finance the supplies. However, his trip abroad to solicit additional funds lost him his Assembly clerkship.

On April 19, 1783, Paine concluded his Crisis series on a note of expectation: "'The times that tried men's souls' are over—and the greatest and completest revolution the world ever knew, gloriously and happily accomplished." Fears for the American union, however, belied Paine's optimism. He had appealed to Virginia in a pamphlet, Public Good (1780), to surrender its western land claims to the national government so that Maryland would ratify the Articles of Confederation. In letters in the Providence Gazette and Country Journal (November 1782 to February 1783) he urged Rhode Island to approve a national tariff to give Congress adequate financial resources.

England and France

After the Revolution, Paine lived rather quietly on the farm in New Rochelle that Congress had granted him and in Bordentown, N.J. He was working on several inventions. One, a pierless iron bridge to cross the Schuylkill River, took him abroad in 1787 to secure advice from the French Academy of Sciences and English technical assistance. Though he made the warm acquaintance of Edmund Burke, the two fell out when, in 1790, Burke published his attack on the French Revolution and defense of hereditary monarchy. Paine's reply, The Rights of Man (1791, 1792), vigorously defended republican principles and virtually called Englishmen to arms to overthrow their monarchy.

The new publication was a journalistic success, with 200, 000 copies sold within a year, including French and German translations. The English government proscribed it as seditious and outlawed Paine. He escaped imprisonment by fleeing to France, where he took part in drawing up a new French constitution.

Elected a member of the National Convention, Paine irritated French radicals by protesting the execution of Louis XVI. During the Reign of Terror he was imprisoned. His 11-month confinement was ended by the intercession of the American minister, James Monroe, but Paine publicly expressed bitterness at Washington's failure to secure earlier release in a Letter to George Washington (1796).

Paine's most controversial writing was The Age of Reason (1794, 1795), a direct attack on the irrationality of revealed religion and a defense of deism. Despite Paine's unequivocal affirmation of a belief in the Creator, the book was denounced as atheistic, was suppressed in England, and evoked countless indignant responses. Like his other writings, its circulation was phenomenal, with French, English, Irish, and American editions. Modern critics recognize the book as one of the clearest expositions of the rationalist theism of the Enlightenment and a reservoir of the ideology of the Age of Reason.

Return to America

When Paine returned to America in 1802, he was attacked for his criticism of Washington and his denunciation of traditional Christianity. He was ostracized by former friends such as Sam Adams and Benjamin Rush, harassed by children in New Rochelle, N.Y., deprived of the right to vote by that city, and even refused accommodations in taverns and on stages. Even his wish to be buried in a Quaker cemetery was denied. He was interred on his farm on June 10, 1809, two days after his death. In a bizarre finale his remains were exhumed by William Cobbett, who planned to rebury them with ceremony in England, but the project failed, and the remains, seized in a bankruptcy proceeding, disappeared.

Posterity did better by Paine. New Rochelle erected a monument on the original gravesite; England hung his picture in the National Portrait Gallery and marked his birthplace with a plaque; France erected a statue of him in Paris; and Americans placed his bust in the Hall of Fame at New York University. But Paine's real monument was the enormous impact of his writings on his own age and their enduring popularity. Expressive of the Enlightenment's faith in the power of reason to free man from all "tyrannical and false systems … and enable him to be free, " Paine's vision of universal peace, goodness, and justice appeared even more revolutionary as nationalistic aspirations and bourgeois complacency replaced the enthusiasm and cosmopolitanism of the 18th century.

Further Reading

There is no definitive edition of Paine's writings. Moncure D. Conway, ed., The Writings of Thomas Paine (4 vols., 1894-1896), the most scholarly version, omits a great deal. The most complete edition is Philip S. Foner, ed., The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine (2 vols., 1945), but it omits several pieces and is inaccurate and incomplete in other respects. The best single volume is Harry H. Clark, ed., Thomas Paine: Representative Selections (1944; rev. ed. 1961), which contains Clark's illuminating analysis of Paine's ideas, his literary style, and a critical bibliography of writings about Paine.

Most biographies of Paine are inadequate. Alfred O. Aldridge, Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine (1959), is impartial, incorporates the latest scholarship, and corrects many errors which appear in the standard biography, Moncure D. Conway, Life of Thomas Paine (2 vols., 1892). Conway's work, upon which most other biographers have drawn, is partisan and adulatory but was extensively researched and contains most of the materials for a reconstruction of Paine's life. Among the later, popular biographies which add little to Conway's work are S.M. Berthold, Thomas Paine (1938); Frank Smith, Thomas Paine (1938); and William E. Woodward, Tom Paine (1945). The semifictionalized Citizen Tom Paine (1943) by Howard Fast is one-sided and deals largely with the years 1774 to 1787. Frederick J. Gould, Thomas Paine (1925), is brief and reasonably well balanced. Hesketh Pearson, Tom Paine: Friend of Mankind (1937), humanizes Paine by accentuating some of his failings. □

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Paine, Thomas

PAINE, THOMAS

Social agitator Thomas Paine was an influential political writer whose support of revolution and republican government emboldened the American colonists to declare independence from England. In 1776, the corset-maker-turned-pamphleteer published the first of a sixteen-part series entitled The American Crisis. Paine's tract contained the stirring words "These are the times that try men's souls." Paine wrote the famous pamphlet to lift the spirits of the beleaguered Continental Army.

The effect of Paine's political writing was felt not only in America but also in England and France. After the American Revolution, Paine returned to his native Europe, where he supported the French Revolution. His political opinions ignited a storm in England and landed him in jail in France. During his lifetime, Paine's political views made him both tremendously popular and almost universally despised. In particular, his later writings about organized religion and deism offended many Americans. Shunned and penniless at the end of his life, Paine has only recently found his rightful place in history.

Paine was born into a poor English family on January 29, 1737, in Thetford, Norfolk, England. To help support his Quaker father and Anglican mother, Paine quit school at age thirteen and began training in corset making, his father's trade. Unhappy in his vocation, Paine left home and enlisted as a seaman in the Seven Years' War. Afterward, he traveled to London, where he became interested in science and mechanics. Paine held a variety of jobs, including customs official, preacher, and schoolteacher. At the urging of benjamin franklin, while Franklin served as a colonial official in England, Paine immigrated to America. Arriving in Philadelphia in 1774, Paine became the managing editor of Pennsylvania Magazine.

In January 1776, Paine published his first important pamphlet, Common Sense. A phenomenal success, the publication sold more than five hundred thousand copies. Paine urged the American colonies not only to protest English taxation but to go further and declare independence. He also recommended calling a constitutional convention to establish a new government. Paine's tract was extremely influential in convincing the colonists to cut their ties with England; embrace the Revolution; and embark upon a new, republican form of government.

Paine served in the Continental Army and experienced firsthand the miserable conditions of war. To boost the soldiers' morale after a retreat, he wrote the influential series The American Crisis. Under orders from General Washington, Paine's pamphlet was read aloud to encourage the troops. The American Crisis has been given credit for inspiring the American victory in the Battle of Trenton.

Paine was elected to the continental congress in 1777, as secretary of the Committee of Foreign Affairs. He resigned under pressure in 1779 after publishing confidential information about treaty negotiations with France.

"Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one."
—Thomas Paine

After the United States' victory over England, Paine devoted his time to perfecting his

inventions. In 1787, he returned to Europe to gather financial support and interest in his ideas for an iron bridge. While in England, Paine became caught up in the debate over the French Revolution. In 1791, he published the first part of The Rights of Man. It was a response to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790), a vigorous denunciation of the events in France. Paine's The Rights of Man supported the revolution and upheld the dignity and rights of the common person. Controversial for its time, The Rights of Man sold two hundred thousand copies in England but Paine was forced out of that country under an indictment for treason.

Paine moved to France. After obtaining French citizenship, he was elected to the National Convention in 1792. Because Paine protested the execution of Louis XVI, he was arrested and imprisoned by the radical Robes-pierre government. Barely avoiding the guillotine, he spent ten months in a Luxembourg prison before his release was won by james monroe, U.S. ambassador to France. Paine wrote Letter to Washington in 1796, a critical look at the U.S. president's inability to quickly obtain Paine's freedom.

While in prison, Paine published in 1794 the first half of his most controversial work, The Age of Reason. The second half was printed in 1796, after his release. In The Age of Reason, Paine criticized organized religion and explained his own deist beliefs. Deism is a religious and philosophical belief that accepts the concept of God but views reason as the key to moral truths. Deism was confused by many of Paine's readers with atheism, the rejection of a belief in God. Because people mistook The Age of Reason for an atheist tract, Paine came under attack for his unorthodox religious views.

When Paine arrived in the United States in 1802, he was rejected by many of his former associates. His reputation was damaged by his misinterpreted deist beliefs and by his public criticism of the American hero george washington.

Paine died June 8, 1809, in New York City, misunderstood and impoverished, with his role in the Revolutionary War downplayed by his detractors. He was buried on his farm in New Rochelle, New York. In 1819, political journalist William Cobbett made arrangements to have Paine reburied in England in a place of honor.

Somehow, en route to England, Paine's remains were lost. They were never retrieved.

Paine's reputation as a political philosopher has been largely restored. He is remembered favorably for his rousing call to arms during the American Revolution and for his defense of republicanism and the rights of common people.

further readings

Aldridge, Alfred Owen. 1959. Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

Ayer, A.J. 1988. Thomas Paine. New York: Atheneum.

Keane, John. 2003. Tom Paine: A Political Life. New York: Grove Press.

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Paine, Thomas

Paine, Thomas

bibliography

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was by all odds the most influential revolutionary pamphleteer of the Anglo-American world of the late eighteenth century, a figure of international importance. His pamphlet Common Sense, published in 1776, 13 months after he arrived in Philadelphia from his native England, crystallized the sentiment that led to the Declaration of Independence. His series of papers, The American Crisis, stiffened patriot resistance during the war, in “the times that try men’s souls.” The Rights of Man, published in 1791 and 1792, was written after his return to England in 1787 in response to Edmund Burke’s attack on the French Revolution. This pamphlet stimulated the radical reform movement in England and the Jeffersonian Republican party in the United States and led to the prosecution of Paine in England for sedition and to his election to the French National Assembly. In France from 1792 to 1802, his role in the revolution was minimal; allied to the Girondins, he was imprisoned by the Jacobins during 1794, barely escaping execution. His chief work in France, however, The Age of Reason, which appeared in 1794 and 1795, was probably the most popular deist attack on revealed religion ever written.

Paine’s mind was “speculative but unscholarly” (Clark [1944] 1961, p. xxix), and he was almost completely self-educated. His thought was to a great degree shaped by the experiences of his first 37 years in England, where as a poor staymaker (his father’s craft) and excise collector he developed an impassioned hatred of a “system of government” he held responsible for “the mass of wretchedness” in society (Complete Writings,vol. 1, pp. 404-405). The Quakerism of his father contributed to his humanitarianism and nonconformism. Newtonian science, which he learned from popular lectures in London, gave him confidence in natural law and rationalism as well as a lifelong interest in scientific improvement. (His most notable scientific contribution was the perfection of an iron bridge.) Thereafter he absorbed the ideas of the Enlightenment that were prevalent among his acquaintances in the advanced political groups of his day: in the United States the Philadelphia circle of Franklin, Jefferson, and Rush; in England the reform circle of Tooke, Godwin, and Priestley; in France the moderate republican circle of Condorcet and Brissot.

Paine is generally classified neither as a political theorist nor as an original thinker but as a popularizer who brought the ideas of the Enlightenment to the ordinary man in a lucid and trenchant style. His originality lay in pushing the critique of established unnatural institutions and ideas beyond the immediate consensus of enlightened opinion and in a radical direction. Thus, Common Senserejected not only King George in and any colonial tie to England but all monarchy, arguing for a broadly based republican form of government. The Rights of Man, in defending the French Revolution, advocated a republic for England, irreverently rejected the constitutionalism that was the basis of the Whig rationale of reform, and exposed the government as a class instrument through which the rich profited from war and the poor were exploited by taxes. In the famous fifth chapter of Book 2 of The Rights of Man and in Agrarian Justice, published in 1797, Paine proposed a program—poor relief, public education, old-age pensions, unemployment projects, etc., all to be financed by progressive inheritance and income taxes—that anticipated the welfare state. The Age of Reason, with its book-by-book expose of the inconsistencies of the Old Testament and the New Testament, indicting the obscurantism of Christianity as “an engine of power” which “serves the purpose of despotism” (Complete Writings, vol. 1, p. 600), transformed deism from an aristocratic to a democratic creed.

Paine returned to the United States in 1802, and in his last years was unjustifiably denounced as a Jacobin and an atheist, which opprobrium long characterized orthodox American political and religious opinion of him. His ideas had a brief revival in American labor and reform movements, but his fame was kept alive primarily by agnostics and freethinkers. In England, by contrast, The Rights of Man became “a foundation text of the English working class movement” until about 1880 (Thompson [1963] 1964, pp. 31, 90). From the point of view of conservatives, Paine, because of his optimistic view of human nature and his failure to grapple sufficiently with the kinds of political institutions necessary to guarantee the rights of man, epitomizes the “naivete” of the Enlightenment. He has had a continuing appeal to anarchists for his antistatist tendencies and to liberals and socialists for his radical egalitarianism.

Alfred Young

[For the historical context of Paine’s work, see the biographies ofBurke; Condorcet; Jefferson; Rush ; Tooke.]

bibliography

Aldridge, Alfred O. 1959 Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine. Philadelphia: Lippincott.

Brinton, Crane 1934 Thomas Paine. Volume 14, pages 159-166 in Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Scribner.

Clark, Harry H. (1944) 1961 Introduction. In Thomas Paine, Thomas Paine: Representative Selections. New York: Hill & Wang.

Conway, Moncure D. (1892) 1893 The Life of Thomas Paine: With a History of His Literary, Political and Religious Career in America, France and England.2 vols. New York: Putnam.

Kenyon, Cecilia M. 1951 Where Paine Went Wrong. American Political Science Review 45:1086-1099.

Paine, ThomasThe Complete Writings of Thomas Paine. 2 vols. Edited by Philip S. Foner. New York: Citadel, 1945.

Palmer, Robert R. 1942 Tom Paine: Victim of the Rights of Man. Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 66:161-175.

Thompson, Edward P. (1963)1964 The Making of the English Working Class. New York: Pantheon. → See especially Chapter 4 on “The Free-born Englishman” and Chapter 5 on “Planting the Liberty Tree.”

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Paine, Thomas

Thomas Paine, 1737–1809, Anglo-American political theorist and writer, b. Thetford, Norfolk, England. The son of a working-class Quaker, he became an excise officer and was dismissed from the service after leading (1772) agitation for higher salaries. Paine emigrated to America in 1774, bearing letters of introduction from Benjamin Franklin, who was then in England. He soon became involved in the clashes between England and the American colonies and published the stirring and enormously successful pamphlet Common Sense (Jan., 1776), in which he argued that the colonies had outgrown any need for English domination and should be given independence. In Dec., 1776, Paine wrote the first of a series of 16 pamphlets called The American Crisis (1776–83). These essays were widely distributed and did much to encourage the patriot cause throughout the American Revolution. He also wrote essays for the Pennsylvania Journal and edited the Pennsylvania Magazine. After the war he returned to his farm in New Rochelle, N.Y.

In 1787 Paine went to England and while there wrote The Rights of Man (2 parts, 1791 and 1792), defending the French Revolution in reply to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. Its basic premises were that there are natural rights common to all men, that only democratic institutions are able to guarantee these rights, and that only a kind of welfare state can secure economic equity. Paine's attack on English institutions led to his prosecution for treason and subsequent flight to Paris (1792). There, as a member of the National Convention, he took a significant part in French affairs. During the Reign of Terror he was imprisoned by the Jacobins from Dec., 1793 to Nov., 1794 and narrowly escaped the guillotine. During this time he wrote his famous deistic and antibiblical work The Age of Reason (2 parts, 1794 and 1795), which alienated many. His diatribe against George Washington, Letter to Washington (1796), added more fuel to the persisting resentment against him. At the invitation of the new president, Thomas Jefferson, Paine returned to the United States in 1802. However, he was practically ostracized by his erstwhile compatriots; he died unrepentant and in poverty seven years later. An idealist, a radical, and a master rhetorician, Paine wrote and lived with a keen sense of urgency and excitement and a constant yearning for liberty.

See his writings ed. by M. D. Conway (1894–96, repr. 1969); P. Foner, ed., The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine (2 vol., 1945); and representative selections ed. by H. H. Clark (1944, repr. 1961); biographies by D. F. Hawke (1974), A. Williamson (1974), J. Keane (1995), and C. Nelson (2006); studies by E. Foner (1976, repr. 1997), P. Collins (2005), H. J. Kaye (2005), C. Hitchens (2007), and S. Cotlar (2011).

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"Paine, Thomas." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. 2016. Encyclopedia.com. 30 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Paine, Thomas

Paine, Thomas (1737–1809). Radical writer and revolutionary activist. Paine led an uneventful life as a stay-maker and exciseman before emigrating to Philadelphia in 1774, where he became involved in the American independence movement. In Common Sense (1776), he argued for American severance from the British empire, and for isolationism in American policy towards Europe. As revolutionary forces in France began to gather strength, Paine went to Paris to give his support, publishing The Rights of Man (Part I 1791; Part II 1792), defending the Revolution against the attack launched by Burke in his Reflections on the Revolution in France. The popularity of the book in Britain was a source of considerable concern to Pitt's government. The French revolutionaries made Paine an honorary citizen of France, and he was elected to the French National Convention in 1792. However, Paine did not subscribe to the atheism of the revolutionaries, and in his Age of Reason (Part I 1794; Part II 1795), while attacking Christianity, he argued for the existence of the deity as a first cause. Nor did Paine support the execution of Louis XVI, and his plea for the king's life to be spared led to his dismissal from the Convention. Narrowly escaping execution in the Luxembourg prison, Paine found life in France under Napoleon intolerable and returned to his adopted America in 1802, passing his last years as a newspaper columnist.

Tim S. Gray

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JOHN CANNON. "Paine, Thomas." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Encyclopedia.com. 30 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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JOHN CANNON. "Paine, Thomas." The Oxford Companion to British History. 2002. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O110-PaineThomas.html

Paine, Thomas

Paine, Thomas (1737–1809) The pre-eminent pamphleteer and radical democrat of the American Revolution. Paine was born in England and came to America in 1744. His 1776 revolutionary pamphlet Common Sense was enormously popular. In the spirit of Locke, Paine proclaimed that ‘Government even in its best state is a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.’ Paine wrote many pamphlets during the war, becoming an articulate spokesman for democratic and egalitarian institutions in the new nation. In 1791–2 he published The Rights of Man, defending the doctrine of natural rights against Burke. Briefly imprisoned in Paris during the period of Revolutionary Terror, Paine returned to the United States in 1802.

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GORDON MARSHALL. "Paine, Thomas." A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Encyclopedia.com. 30 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

GORDON MARSHALL. "Paine, Thomas." A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Encyclopedia.com. (June 30, 2016). http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O88-PaineThomas.html

GORDON MARSHALL. "Paine, Thomas." A Dictionary of Sociology. 1998. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O88-PaineThomas.html

Paine, Thomas

Paine, Thomas (1737–1809) Anglo-American revolutionary political writer. He emigrated from England to Pennsylvania in 1754. His pamphlet Common Sense (1776) demanded independence for the North American colonies. He returned to England in 1787, and published The Rights of Man (1791–92), a defence of the French Revolution. Accused of treason, he fled to France in 1792. He became a French citizen and was elected to the National Convention, but later imprisoned (1793–94). He returned to the USA in 1802.

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"Paine, Thomas." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. 30 Jun. 2016 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Paine, Thomas." World Encyclopedia. 2005. Retrieved June 30, 2016 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O142-PaineThomas.html

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