Biography for Thomas Paine



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Few men nave ever received so large a share of the podium of common public opinion (which Hood defined as "the average prejudice of mankind") as Thomas Paine, whose pen was almost as powerful in support of the republican cause in the early years of the Revolution, as was the sword of Washington ; because it gave vitality to that latent national sentiment which formed the necessary basis of support to the civil and military power then just evoked by the political exigencies of the American people. He was a native of Thetford, England, where he was born, in 1737. He was bred to the business of stay-maker, carried on by his father, but his mind could not long be chained to the narrow employment of fashioning whale-bone and buckram for the bodices of ladies. He sought and obtained an interview with Dr. Franklin, when that statesman first went to England as agent for Pennsylvania, and by his advice Paine came to America, in 1774, and at once employed his powerful pen in the cause of the aroused colonies. Many of his articles appeared in Pennsylvania papers, over the signature of Common Sense; and at the beginning of 1770, he wrote a pamphlet, at the suggestion of Dr. Rush, bearing that expressive title. It was the earliest and most powerful public appeal in favor of the independence of the colonies, and did more, probably, than any other instrumentality, to fix that idea firmly in the minds of the people. Within a hundred days after its appearance, almost every provincial assembly had spoken in favor of independence. Paine also commenced a series of papers called The Crisis, the first number of which was written in the camp of Washington, near the Delaware, at the close of 1776. They were issued at intervals, during the war. In the Spring of 1777, Paine was appointed, by Congress, Secretary to the Committee on Foreign Affairs, with a salary of seventy dollars a month. It was a position of great trust and reasonability, and he performed the duties satisfactorily until 1779, when, in a public dispute with Silas Deane, he revealed some secrets of his bureau, and was threatened with dismissal. He at once resigned his office, but remained a firm friend to his adopted country. After the war, he used his pen for a lively hood; and in 1790, he visited his native country. There he wrote his Rights of Man, which

1. This purchase was necessary to quiet the occupants of (he land in their possession, for they had purchased from the commissioners under the confiscation act.

2. So highly was that essay esteemed, that the legislature of Pennsylvania voted the author twenty-five hundred dollars. Washington regarded it as his most powerful aid. In a letter to Joseph Reed, he said, " By private letters which I have lately received from Virginia, I find that Common Sense is working a powerful change there in the minds of many men."

SOURCE: Eminent Americans - By Benson J. Lossing (Published 1886)


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