Author of the American Revolution
The American Revolution took place during a time when communication between citizens in the American Colonies was very difficult. The revolution was fought during a time long before radio, television and the Internet announced any newsworthy event moments after it began. During the Revolutionary War, colonists were only able to hear about news from early newspapers and pamphlets written about the events of the day. One of the earliest and most noteworthy authors was a colonist named Thomas Paine, who published many articles on the events leading up the revolution, including one of the most famous pieces, “Common Sense.”
Thomas Paine, one of the most well known revolutionary, was not born in the American Colonies. Instead, he was born on February 9, 1737 in Norfolk, England. While growing up, Paine attended schools in England until the age of 12. From that point, Paine began to work in several different vocations including running a business and schoolteacher.
Paine’s first introduction into politics occurred in the late 1760’s, while living in East Sussex, England. Paine began to attend meetings of the Society of Twelve, which was a local civic group that would meet to talk about the political conditions in the town. In 1771, he became involved and took up the cause of a group of officers that were looking to get pay raises from the British Parliament. To aid their cause, Paine wrote “The Case of Officers of Excise”, which was a 21 page article supporting the officers against the government. In all 4,000 copies of the article were given to members of Parliament.
In 1774, Paine was fired from his job, and to dodge being detained in debtors prison, he sold his property and moved to London. In June he was introduced to Benjamin Franklin who spoke with Paine about the colonies, and convinced him to move to the British Colonies. That fall, he traveled by ship to the colonies arriving in November 1774.
Upon his arrival in the British Colonies, he began to become involved in the issues of British rule that the colonists were facing. Paine began to write articles in favor of independence and began to become a voice of the growing revolutionary sentiment.
In January 1776, Paine authored the article “Common Sense”, and it became a popular work among the citizens. Upon release, the pamphlet sold over 100,000 copies, which was one of the widest distributed works of its time. What made this work a success was that it was written by an Englishman, with the recommendation that the colonies break from England and declare their independence. The piece was written in such a way that it started to rouse the spark of independence in the colonies and the hatred from the rulers in England.
In addition to “Common Sense”, Paine authored several other well known and distributed pamphlets. They include the Revolutionary War themed “The American Crisis”, “The Rights of Man” which was an article dealing with enlightenment and “The Age of Reason”, which dealt with religious ideals. All of the works of Paine were very well regarded and influenced many people in both the United States and later in France.
During his later years, Paine continued to be a strong supporter of the United States and served in several governmental positions. He also spent a great deal of time in France, and he is believed to be an influence in the French Revolution. Thomas Paine died on June 8, 1809 in New York City. Paine left a legacy in literature and in history, and is regarded as one of the founding fathers of the United States. Paine has been recognized in the United States for his written work, in France for the writings in support of independence and even back home in England, where despite his writings against his native country, his work has been recognized.
To understand further the work and life of Thomas Paine, here are a collection of resources: