Thomas Paine

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Thomas "Tom" Paine (February 9, 1737 [O.S. January 29, 1736[1]] – June 8, 1809) was an author, pamphleteer, radical, inventor, intellectual, revolutionary, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.[2][3] He has been called "a staymaker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination."[4]

Born in Thetford, in the English county of Norfolk, Paine emigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 in time to participate in the American Revolution. His principal contributions were the powerful, widely read pamphlet Common Sense (1776), advocating colonial America's independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain, and The American Crisis (1776–1783), a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series. His writing of "Common Sense" was so influential in spurring on the Revolutionary War that John Adams reportedly said, "Without the pen of the author of 'Common Sense,' the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.”[5]

In 1789 Paine visited France, and lived there for much of the following decade. He was deeply involved in the early stages of the French Revolution. He wrote the Rights of Man (1791), in part a defence of the French Revolution[3] against its critics, in particular the British statesman Edmund Burke. Despite not speaking French, he was elected to the French National Convention in 1792. The Girondists regarded him as an ally, so, the Montagnards, especially Robespierre, regarded him as an enemy. In December of 1793, he was arrested and imprisoned in Paris, then released in 1794. He became notorious because of The Age of Reason (1793–94), his book advocating deism, promoting reason and freethinking, and arguing against institutionalized religion and Christian doctrines.[3] He also wrote the pamphlet Agrarian Justice (1795), discussing the origins of property, and introduced the concept of a guaranteed minimum income.

Paine remained in France during the early Napoleonic era, but condemned Napoleon's dictatorship, calling him "the completest charlatan that ever existed".[6] In 1802, at President Jefferson's invitation, he returned to America where he died on June 8, 1809. Only six people attended his funeral as he had been ostracized due to his criticism and ridicule of Christianity.[7]

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