Mini Biography of Thomas Paine, Journalist, Political Philosopher, Built Case for American Independence
Name: Thomas Paine
Birth Date: February 9, 1737 – June 8, 1809
Job Functions: Journalist, Political Philosopher
Fields: Philosophy, Journalism
Known For: Common Sense
As we come to the end of National Mentoring Month, and our series on the people Napoleon Hill used as invisible mentors, today I feature Thomas Paine, journalist, political philosopher, and creator of pamphlets (I cannot embrace the word pamphleteer, can you?). While reading about Paine, I asked myself, like so many writers have done, “What do I include?” I have decided that I would not include some of the information because it diminishes his contributions to society.
In this mini biography of Thomas Paine, we will look at his major accomplishments, and how he influenced public opinion that favored American independence. Paine’s life wasn’t smooth sailing, and he suffered many setbacks in life, such as being fired and being imprisoned because he opposed the execution of Louis XVI.
Thomas Paine’s Steps to Success
- Early on, Thomas Paine worked at a firm that made corsets, then he transitioned into the excise service.
- In February 1768, he secured an excise job in Lewes, Sussex.
- While working in excise services, he wrote his first political pamphlet, The Case of the Officers of Excise (The case of the officers of excise; with remarks on the qualifications of officers; and on the numerous evils arising to the revenue, from the insufficiency of the present salary.), where he argued and advocated for higher salaries. In 1772, although he had a petition signed by 3,000 men who worked in the field to support his lobbying efforts, ministers and members of Parliament mainly ignored him.
- He was fired from his excise job in 1774, and in October, with a letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin, he sailed to America.
Related Posts: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, Review
- After arriving in the US in November of 1774, he met Robert Aitkin, Benjamin Franklin’s son-in-law, and the two went into partnership to found Pennsylvania Magazine.
- He published a plea to abolish slavery, and joined an anti-slavery movement in 1775. In his article, he presented his arguments against slavery.
- His anti-slavery piece led to a meeting with Benjamin Rush, a physician, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Paine also advocated for greater rights for women, and easier availability of divorce.
- Rush encouraged Paine to write a pamphlet in favor of American independence.
- In 1776, out of Rush’s request, came Common Sense, Thomas Paine’s best known work, which was a demand for America’s independence from Britain.
- A skilled writer, through Common Sense, Paine was able to shape public opinion, and garner support for independence.
- What made Common Sense so successful is that Paine wrote it for a wider audience and not just the educated elite, therefore, it was plainly written so anyone could understand. In his argument, Paine expressed that “Society, in its natural origins, was free and without government. As vice crept in laws, governments became a necessary evil at best, repressive tyrannies at worst….” Another important aspect of the success of Common Sense is that an Englishman wrote it. An Englishman was advocating for independence from his birth country.
- The publication of Common Sense was timely, and came on the day when Britain rejected America’s plea for independence, which caused hostility toward the monarch.
- Copies of Common Sense sold for two shillings each, and within three weeks, pirated copies were available. Paine sold 120,000 copies in three months, and he later sold half a million copies in a short timeframe.
- Between 1776 and 1783, he published a series of 13 essays, The Crisis.
- At the outbreak of the French Revolution, he was in Paris, and became a French citizen, and was the principal author of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen.
- Edmund Burke, political theorist and philosopher, denounced the French Revolution and Paine responded with the Rights of Man (Dover Thrift Editions), and a year later published part two of the book.
- In 1792, Paine was imprisoned because he argued that Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette who were charged for treason should be exiled and not executed.
- Wrote The Age of Reason while in prison for 11 months.
- After he was released from prison, he participated in drafting the Constitution of 1795.
- Paine was embittered because George Washington, then US president, had not acted sooner to get him released from prison. He published his dissatisfaction in a long Letter to George Washington, in 1796.
- In 1802, he returned to the United States at the invitation of Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe. However, he had fallen out of favor, and many blamed him for the huge death count during the French Revolution although he had done his best to prevent it.
- While in the US, he wrote articles in support of Thomas Jefferson. But he was forgotten by many, and his close friends, Benjamin Rush and Samuel Adams (another founding father) deserted him because of his criticism of organized religion. He considered himself a deist.
- Fell on hard times and died in poverty on June 8, 1809, at the age of seventy-two.
Other Invisible Counselors (Invisible Mentors)
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Author Bio: Avil Beckford, an expert interviewer, entrepreneur and published author is passionate about books and professional development, and that’s why she founded The Invisible Mentor and the Virtual Literary World Tour to give you your ideal mentors virtually in the palm of your hands by offering book reviews and book summaries, biographies of wise people and interviews of successful people.
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Source: Works Cited/Referenced
American Revolution Reference Library
Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Encyclopedia of the American Constitution
Encyclopedia of the American Revolution – Library of Military History
Europe 1789-1914 – Encyclopedia of the Age of Industry and Empire
New Catholic Encyclopedia