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Paine, Thomas (1737–1809)

Stacy Warner Maddern


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Writing of “the times that try men's souls” in his essay The Crisis , Thomas Paine issued the battle-cry of the American Revolution . Paine communicated ideas of revolution to peasants and intellectuals alike, creating prose that would both inspire passion and receive tremendous ridicule. Paine would incite revolution in America, Britain, and France, addressing every class of people without discrimination, envisioning a society that was free of slavery, advocating world peace, and demanding security for both poor and elderly. Born in England in 1737, the son of a Quaker corset maker, Paine's empathy for the poor came from childhood observations of suffering and violence at the hands of the state. These experiences would leave deep scars on Paine, manifesting distaste for excessive wealth and compassion for the poor. By the time he came to America, Paine had discovered a distinct relationship between affluence and distress. On January 10, 1776 he published anonymously a pamphlet entitled Common Sense that made a persuasive argument for the American colonies to separate, politically and economically, from Britain. He began by defining the “origin and design of government” in order to show Americans that they were a people with exceptional purpose and promise. In drawing a line between society and government he claimed “society in every state is a blessing, but government, even ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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