About Thomas Paine 1737 to 1809

Thomas Paine

Oil painting by Auguste Milli��re (1880), painted after an engraving by William Sharp, after a portrait by George Romney (1792).

Coomon Sense

Pamphlet ''Common Sense''
written by Thomas Paine in 1776

Statue of Thomas Paine in Norfolk England

Statue of Thomas Paine
in Norfolk England.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine was the most remarkable political writer and radical thinker of the 18th century producing a series of influential pamphlets and books advocating political and social  change which championed the rights of the common man thereby playing a prominent part in both American and French Revolutions.

His parents moved to Thetford in 1736 where his father set up a business as a staymaker. It was there on 29th January 1737 that Thomas Paine was born.

He attended the Quaker Meeting house where his father was a Friend and where the pacifist philosophy no doubt formed his humanitarian ideas. He received a good education at the local Free Grammar School and was apprenticed to his father's trade on leaving the school.

At the age of 20 he moved away to London never to return. In 1759 he came to Sandwich and opened a shop in his father's trade at 20 New Street, now called ''Tom Paine's Cottage'', the wall over the door bears a plaque to that effect.

He married a local girl, Mary Lambert in St. Peter's Church. She was a companion-maid to Mrs. Richard Solley, a woollen draper of the town. Her father was an excise man and he later entered that profession holding several posts and writing his first pamphlet ''The Case of the Officers of Excise''. Only one year after his marriage Mary died and after a short time Tom moved away to settle in Lewes, Sussex.

Benjamin Franklin, the American statesman, was in London at that time (see link to Franklin��s house on the right) and he recognised Tom's talents prompting him to set sail for the new World in 1774 armed with a letter of introduction. There he became editor of the new Pennsylvania Magazine and in 1776 he wrote his famous pamphlet ''Common Sense'' followed by a series called ''American Crisis''.

 In a later pamphlet he coined the phrase ''United States of America and many of his ideas fostered the American people's desires for complete freedom of government and were incorporated in the ''Declaration of Independence''. His work was rewarded by a large area of land to farm in ''New Rochelle'' in New York State.

In 1787 Paine returned to England for a short time becoming the unofficial American Ambassador in London and there meeting Thomas Jefferson and later the Marquis de Lafayette in France. There he formulated his work ''Rights of Man'' putting  forward revolutionary  ideas on political and social change followed by the second part in 1792 containing his remarkable security plan that has served as a basis for schemes ever since adopted.

In France he was given a hero's welcome being made an honorary citizen. He drafted a new Constitution however, being a pacifist by nature, he was imprisoned during  ��The Terror'' and narrowly escaped the guillotine. During this time he continued with his last major work ''The Age of Reason''.

Paine was eventually released from prison as an American citizen returning disillusioned to America in 1802. He continued his political writings and scientific interests although his health was declining.

He died on the 8th June 1809 at New Rochelle and was buried on his farm. His remains were brought back to England in 1819 but his place of burial is not known.

(Sources: Sandwich History Society & Wikimedia for the images)