Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England, in 1737, the son of a staymaker. He had little schooling and worked at a number of jobs, including tax collector, a position he lost for agitating for an increase in excisemen’s pay. Persuaded by Benjamin Franklin, he emigrated to America in 1774. In 1776 he began his American Crisis series of thirteen pamphlets, and also published the incalculably influential Common Sense, which established Paine not only as a truly revolutionary thinker, but as the American Revolution’s fiercest political theorist. In 1787 Paine returned to Europe, where he became involved in revolutionary politics. In England his books were burned by the public hangman. Escaping to France, Paine took part in drafting the French constitution and voted against the king’s execution. He was imprisoned for a year and narrowly missed execution himself. In 1802 he returned to America and lived in New York State, poor, ill and largely despised for his extremism and so-called atheism (he was in fact a deist). Thomas Paine died in 1809. His body was exhumed by William Cobbett, and the remains were taken to England for a memorial burial. Unfortunately, the remains were subsequently lost.
The Crisisby Thomas Paine
"The Crisis" is Thomas Paine's series of pamphlets published from 1776 to 1783 during the American Revolution. The first pamphlet begins with the famous words "these are the times that try men's souls" and evokes the mood at the outset of the American Revolution. Many colonists were uncertain of the prospect of war with the British Empire and these pamphlets were designed to bolster morale and resistance among patriots, as well as shame neutrals and loyalists toward the cause. As history would show the conflict with the British for American independence would without doubt be a difficult one but as Paine writes "Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."
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