Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England, to a father who worked as a corset maker. From his beginnings, it seems unlikely that this boy would one day publish writings that influenced two revolutions of the 18th century. "Common Sense" called for the complete independence of the American colonies, and "The Rights of Man" helped radicalize the French Revolution. By the end of his life, Paine had been forced out of Britain and imprisoned in France. His writings caused controversy, but also provoked thought. Americans can thank Paine for a work that the common man could understand, for "Common Sense" united the colonists under the banner of independence against British rule. Thomas Paine remains one of the most influential writers of the eighteenth century. His work spanned two continents and influenced two revolutions during his lifetime.

29 Jan 1737 1
Thetford, England 2
08 Jun 1809 2
New York, New York 2

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Personal Details

Full Name:
Thomas Paine 2
29 Jan 1737 1
Thetford, England 1
Male 1
08 Jun 1809 1
New York, New York 1
Mother: Frances Pain 1
Father: Joseph Pain 1
Elizabeth Ollive 2
1771 2
To: 1774 2
Mary Lambert 2
1759 2
To: 1760 2
Revolutionary; Author; 2
Race or Ethnicity:
English 2
Becomes excise tax officer:
1768 1
Emigrates to America with Benjamin Franklin's help:
October 1774 1
Forced to leave Britain and moves to France:
September 1792 1
Incarcerated in the Luxembourg prison by French:
28 Dec 1793 1
Opposes the execution of Louis XVI of France:
January 1793 1
Publishes Common Sense:
10 Jan 1776 1
Publishes The Age of Reason:
1794 1
Publishes The Case of the Officers of Excise:
1772 1
Publishes The Case of the Officers of Excise:
London, England 1
Publishes the pamphlets The American Crisis:
1776-1783 1
Publishes the Rights of Man:
Paris, France 1
Publishes the Rights of Man:
1792 1
Released from prison with help from James Monroe:
04 Nov 1794 1
Returns to America:
October 1802 1
Returns to Europe:
1787 1

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The Impact of Paine’s "Common Sense"

Common Sense was published on January 10, 1776, in response to the uprising in the American colonies against the British, now known as the American Revolution. Within the first three months, 120,000 copies of this 48-page pamphlet were published, with 500,000 copies published in the first year. Paine kept none of the profits from the publication, but instead gave his earnings to George Washington’s Continental Army. The pamphlet Common Sense influenced popular opinion towards the revolution more than any other work of the time. Paine wrote it with the common man in mind, using sermon-like language and biblical references that the colonists could understand and relate to. Because Common Sense was so widely read, it instigated a national debate about the war, independence, and government that had not previously existed.

            While Paine’s work was widely read, Common Sense did not necessarily influence the work of the Continental Congress and the founding fathers. For example, John Adams disagreed with Thomas Paine’s radical ideas of republican government and wrote his own work, Thoughts on Government, in 1776 to provide a more conservative view. However, Paine’s popularity influenced popular feeling. His writings were read by Benjamin Franklin, a friend since 1774, and George Washington. Washington even had Paine’s The American Crisis read to his troops in order to boost morale. Therefore, Thomas Paine’s philosophies and writings were an integral part of the American Revolution, but not the only part. He caused controversy and provoked discussion. While the true impact of Common Sense cannot be calculated, his work assisted in the formation of the American nation and has become the foundation for political theorists in the twentieth century.




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“These are the times that try men's souls: 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; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.” --Thomas Paine, "The American Crisis"

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“I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense . . .”--Thomas Paine, "Common Sense"

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