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Thomas Paine was an English freethinker and radical propagandist who committed himself to the cause of American independence and became the voice of the common man through his writings.
See the fact file below for more information on Thomas Paine or alternatively, you can download our 21-page Thomas Paine worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- Thomas Paine was born January 29, 1737 in Norfolk, England to Joseph and Frances Paine. His mother hailed from a wealthy Anglican lineage, while his father worked as a Quaker corset tailor. In English society, Quakers are members of a group with Christian roots that promote equal rights of all people.
- Coming from a poor family, Thomas received little formal education, but did learn to read, write, and perform arithmetic. At the age of 13, he began working as an apprentice for his father, but he was unable to accept this occupation.
- He later worked as an exciseman on the Sussex Coast, hunting smugglers and collecting liquor and tobacco taxes. However, he did not excel in all of his jobs, and he referred to his life in England as a series of repeated failures and disappointments.
- To add to his hardships, Thomas’ wife, Mary Lambert, died in childbirth, and his business started to decline. He married his second wife in 1771, but was legally separated after 3 years.
- He was also dismissed from service as a tax collector after he wrote “The Case of the Officers of Excise” in 1772, an article that lobbied for higher pay for excise officers. Thomas had 4,000 printed copies of the pamphlet given to members of the British Parliament and to the public.
- Just as his future was getting bleak, in 1774, Thomas coincidentally met Benjamin Franklin in London and encouraged him to emigrate to America, providing him with letters of introduction to the newly formed nation.
Emigrant Revolutionary Propagandist
- Thomas Paine landed in America on November 30, 1774. Upon arriving in Philadelphia, he sensed the rise in tension and the spirit of rebellion that had formed over the last several years as a result of the British occupation of the colonies.
- In January 1775, he began a new career as a journalist and editor at the Pennsylvania Magazine, and contributed articles on a wide range of topics under a pseudonym. His first published article was a critic of the African slave trade entitled “African Slavery in America”, which he signed under the name “Justice and Humanity”. Thomas could not have arrived at a better time to advance his general views and thoughts on revolution and injustice, as the conflict between England and America had reached its peak.
- A year later, Thomas earned a reputation as a revolutionary propagandist when his short pamphlet, “Common Sense”, was published on January 10, 1776 and sold over 150,000 copies. It argued that representational government is superior to a monarchy or other forms of government based on aristocracy. Furthermore, it advocated for the people to not simply revolt against taxation imposed on them by the British government, but demand independence from Great Britain entirely.
- Common Sense is Thomas Paine’s most famous work and is credited as playing a pivotal role in convincing American citizens to fight and resist England. Although the arguments presented were based on John Locke’s philosophy, Paine’s passionate language and direct appeal to the people prepared them for the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence.
- As the American Revolutionary War began, Paine’s propaganda continued in the bleak days following General George Washington’s forced retreat during the winter of 1776. He wrote “The American Crisis”, a series of inspirational pamphlets that helped revive the morale of the colonial army and civilians, published between 1776 and 1783. In this series of essays, Paine urged for a more efficient federal and state tax system to meet the costs of war, and encouraged the belief that Great Britain would eventually recognize American independence.
- After the Revolution, restless because he was no longer at the center of affairs, Paine returned to Europe and divided his time between traveling to Britain and France, and eventually resumed work as a revolutionary propagandist in the 1790s.
- With his return to France, Paine became deeply involved in the French Revolution, and was inspired to write his most influential work, “The Rights of Man”, which was published in two parts. Published in 1791, Part I campaigned for political rights for all men because of their natural equality in the eyes of God. He condemned all forms of hereditary government, and again argued that only a democratic system of government could be trusted to protect equal political rights of all men. A more radical Part II was published in 1792 and asserted for a whole program of social legislation to deal with the shocking condition of the poor.
- Since The Rights of Man opposed the monarchy and the British constitution, it’s publication was banned in England, and Paine was labeled an outlaw.
- Thomas Paine also wrote a two-volume discourse of his religious beliefs, “The Age of Reason”, published in 1794 and 1795.
- The first volume is a commentary on Christian theology and organized religion in favor of reason and scientific inquiry, while the second volume presents a critical analysis of the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, questioning the divinity of Jesus Christ.
- The publication of The Age of Reason marked the end of Thomas Paine’s credibility in the United States, where he became largely despised.
- In 1802, Thomas Paine returned to America and discovered that his contributions to the Revolution had been shunned because of his radical religious views and denunciation of Christianity.
- During his stay in the United States, Paine dedicated his time and efforts to writing newspaper articles which defended the then-current President Jefferson’s administration and policies.
- Neglected and ostracized, Paine’s last years were marked by poor health and poverty. But despite failing health, he was able to work on the third part of The Age of Reason in 1802 and a criticism of biblical prophecies called “An Essay on Dream”.
- On June 8, 1809, Thomas Paine died at the age of 72 in New York City and was buried on his property in New Rochelle.
- Ten years later, Paine’s remains were stolen by radical newspaperman William Cobbett who shipped them to England with the intention of giving Paine a proper burial as well as demand democratic reform. The British security refused permission and somehow the remains disappeared.
- In 2001, the New Rochelle city government launched the Thomas Paine National Historical Association in an effort to gather his remains and give him a final resting place. The organization claims to have possession of Paine’s brain fragments and locks of hair.
Thomas Paine Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about Thomas Paine across 21 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Thomas Paine worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Thomas Paine who was an English freethinker and radical propagandist who committed himself to the cause of American independence and became the voice of the common man through his writings.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Fast Facts
- The Power of the Written Word
- Do You Know Thomas?
- Thomas’ Hues
- Tom’s Travels
- Thomas Said What?
- No P.A.I.N.E., No Gain
- Digital Revolution
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Link will appear as Thomas Paine Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, October 3, 2018
Use With Any Curriculum
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