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Thomas Paine; the forgotten "Father of the American Revolution"

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Timeline of Thomas Paine's Life

• Born on January 29, 1737, in Thetford, England.

• failed out of school at the age of 12.

• At age 19, Paine went to sea.

• In 1768 he became a tax officer in England.

• In 1772, after being discharged twice in four years at his job as a tax officer, Paine published The Case of the Officers of Excise arguing for a pay raise for officers.

• In 1774 he met Benjamin Franklin in London, by accident. Franklin then helped him emigrate to Philadelphia.

• In Philadelphia he became a journalist and became very popular.

• 1776 : Paine published Common Sense which brought a strong defense for America's independence from England.

• The same year he joined the Continental Army but wasn't very successful as a soldier, but he produced The Crisis, which did help inspire the Army. "This pamphlet was so popular that as a percentage of the population, it was read by more people than today watch the Superbowl."

• But, instead of continuing to help the Revolutionary cause, he returned to Europe and pursued other ventures, including working on a smokeless candle and an iron bridge.

• In 1791 - 1792, he wrote The Rights of Man in response to criticism of the French Revolution. This work caused Paine to be labeled an outlaw in England for his anti-monarchist views. He would have been arrested, but he fled for France to join the National Convention.

• Although a supporter of the French Revolution, in 1793, he was imprisoned in France for not endorsing the execution of Louis XVI. During his imprisonment, he wrote and distributed the first part of what was to become his most famous work at the time, the anti-church text, The Age of Reason (1794-96).

• He was freed in 1794 (narrowly escaping execution) thanks to the efforts of James Monroe, then U.S. Minister to France. Paine remained in France until 1802 when he returned to America on an invitation from Thomas Jefferson. There Paine would discover that his contributions to the American Revolution had been all but eradicated due to his religious views. Derided by the public and abandoned by his friends.

• Paine died at 59 Grove Street in Greenwich Village, New York City, on June 8, 1809. At the time of his death, most US newspapers reprinted the obituary notice from the New York Citizen, which said: "He had lived long, did some good and much harm." Only six mourners came to his funeral, two of whom were black, most likely freedmen. A few years later William Cobbett dug up Paine's bones with intent to ship them back to England, in hopes of giving him a heroic reburial on his native soil.

• twenty years later : Cobbett died and the bones were found still in his possession. There is no confirmed story about what happened to them after that, although down the years various people have claimed to own Paine's skull, or his right hand.

• Later on Thomas Edison, Andrew Jackson, James Monroe, Abraham Lincoln and Thomas Jefferson would all admit to admiring Thomas Paine.

• "Toleration is not the opposite of intolerance but the counterfeit of it. Both are despotisms: the one assumes to itself the right of withholding liberty of conscience, the other of granting it." - Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

• "I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his own opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies another this right makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it." - Thomas Paine

• "Independence is my happiness, and I view things as they are, without regard to place or person; my country is the world, and my religion is to do good." - Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man

• You can learn more about Thomas Paine from his wikipedia biography or here

by matt mcvey

King Street in Thetford, Norfolk
Statue of Thomas Paine in Norfolk
Thomas Paine's place of birth, his book The Rights of Man is upside down.