Born to poor parents, Joseph Paine and Frances Cocke Paine, in 1737, Thomas Paine is today regarded as one of the intellectual revolutionaries and one of the founding fathers of America. He was an author, pamphleteer and a radical (Bernstein, 2009). Paine's migration to America was indeed timely to participate meaningfully in American Revolution.
His major contributions were in his publications as follows; The Common Sense, in 1776, which principally advocated for American independence from Great Britain; American Crisis in 1779, which was also pro-revolutionary. In deed his writing Common Sense was important to American Revolution that Bernstein (2009) in his writing quotes Adams as repeatedly saying that ''without the power of the Author of' Common Sense' writing, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain'' (Bernstein, 2009)
In France, where he later visited and lived for about 10 years, he was so much involved in the early stages of the French Revolution. During his stay there, he wrote 'The Rights of Man' in 1789, which anchored support for the French Revolution against the French Aristocracy and this was to upset the British, Edmund Burke and the French leadership later on. Elected in the French National Convention in 1792, he went ahead to participate actively in writing the French Constitution (Ayer, 1988).
Later he was sent to Prison, during which time he wrote his book, 'The Age of Reason', a controversial book indeed, and a book that later defined how he was later treated or mistreated in America because it upset traditional Christianity (Bernstein, 2009).
Thomas Paine, English-American writer, best known as author of common sense, was born in January 29, 1737 in Thetford, Norfolk, England. He attended Thetford Grammar School between 1744 and 1749, at a time when education was not compulsory. Later, Paine was between jobs, which were generally unsuccessful. On September 27, 1759, he married Mary Lambert who later died while on labor the following year. He later married Elizabeth whom he was to separate with a few years later (Ayer, 1988).
Having met Benjamin Franklin who convinced him on the need to immigrate to America following a couple of unsuccessful career in England, Paine migrated to Philadelphia in 1774 where he was successfully involved in editing the Pennsylvania Magazine and served as an editor for six months (Larkin, 2005).
It was while in Philadelphia that he wrote his popularly acclaimed book, Common Sense. The 50 Paged Pamphlet illuminated of the need for independence. This book set Paine as one of the greatest fiery voices of the American Revolution because the pamphlet argued for a total independence and freedom of America from British control.
Bernstein (2009) argues that because 500,000 copies of the pamphlets were sold, the colonial Resolve to let America Independent was greatly achieved (Bernstein, 2009).
Paine, within the same year during the American Revolution, later became a volunteer aide to Nathaniel Greene during which he wrote 16 'Crisis' Papers from 1776 to 1783, which he interestingly signed 'Common Sense''. They included among others, ''these are the times that try men's soul''. This particular paper was read to troops at Valley Forge following George Washington's order (Bernstein, 2009).
After the American Revolution, Paine went 'underground' living in New Rochelle, in a farm that was granted to him by Congress and in Bordentown, N. J where upon he was working on several inventions (Larkin, 2005). It was, a pier less iron bridge crossing the Schuylkill River that later took him abroad (including his native country, England) to get strategic advise from the French Academy of Sciences and English Technical Assistance. In deed in the year 1787, Thomas Paine went back to England and was actively involved in the debate surrounding the French Revolution (Larkin, 2005).
Ayer (1988) notes that, it was then (1791-92) that he published ''The Rights of Man''. This book fearlessly defended the spirit of the revolution and illuminated republicanism. This publication sold many copies estimated at 200, 000 within that year and was translated in German and French too. Some writers describe it as a journalistic success indeed of that time. However, because the book was widely regarded as a direct attack on the monarchy by the authorities, it was banned, upon which Paine was banished from England. Even though, he had made warm friendship with Edmund Burke, the two had a row and fell out, when Paine published the book widely seen as an attack on the French Revolution and the leadership structure of the monarch, which was purely hereditary.
The book, 'The Rights of Man'' had among others, incited and called upon the people of England to overthrow the monarchy. Following his being outlawed in England based on the aforementioned, Paine went to France as a measure of fleeing imprisonment in England and was elected to the National convention in 1792 and was actively involved in writing the French Constitution.
However, he criticized the ''Reign of Terror'' and had before called for the execution of Louis XVI, a move which invited imprisonment upon himself by Maximilien Robespierre in 1793 for 11 months. His prison term ended when American Minister, James Monroe interceded, even though, in a letter address to George Washington in 1796, Paine was later to express his dissatisfaction and anger at Washington's failure to secure his release earlier. (Bernstein, 2009)
While in Prison, he began writing his book, ''The Age of Reason'' and the first part of the book was published while he was in prison in 1794 and later in the full version in 1796, upon his release. This book earned him the label atheist, which arguably though, espouses Deism. 'The Age of Reason' was indeed Paine's most arguably controversial writing. In spite of the fact that Paine repeatedly assured his belief in the creator, the writing was seen as a direct attack on the irrationality of revealed religion and a defense of deism (Ayer, 1988).
The book was therefore revoked and denounced as atheistic and banished in England, besides inviting condemned responses and reactions. However Ayer (1988) notes that like his other writings, its circulation was still ''phenomenal'' and it was translated into Irish, French and had American and English Editions. Bernstein (2009) notes that in deed, modern critics of religion acclaim the book as fundamental expositions of the rationalist theism of the ideology of the Age of Reason. Paine had remained in France during the early stages of Napoleon rule and at one time described him as ''completes charlatan that ever existed'' (Bernstein, 2009).
On his return to America in 1802, upon invitation by Jefferson, Paine experienced a number of attacks for his criticism of Washington and his looking upon traditional Christianity. The latter largely enraged the Christian establishment. Even his former friends such as Benjamin Rush and Sam Adams ostracized him and intimidated his children in Rochelle, New York. He was even denied his voting rights by the New York City and denied accommodation access in taverns (Ayer, 1988).
Paine was so poverty stricken and frustrated upon his return to America until his death in 1809. He indeed had no proper regard from Americans at that time that even the New York Evening Post, which was traditionally giving him a lot of coverage, only took notice of his death. More painfully, only six people attended his burial (Bernstein, 2009).
Interestingly, his wish to be buried in a Quaker Cemetery was vehemently denied. He was therefore buried on his farm on June 10 1809, exactly two days upon his demise. It was William Corbett, who exhumed his remains with a plan to rebury them in a ceremony in England, a project which failed and the remains, ''seized in a bankruptcy proceeding, disappeared'' (Ayer, 1982)
However, today a monument on the original gravesite has since been erected. England hung his picture in the country's National Gallery and his birthday had since been celebrated. His stature hangs in Paris, and this was erected by the French Government. In addition, Americans have since placed his bust in New York University (Bernstein, 2009).
Thomas Paine legacy is indeed enormous and instrumental to American history. He was indeed one of the fiercest American Revolutionaries. His writing greatly influenced his contemporaries and particularly the American revolutionaries. His books provoked and inspired philosophic and radicals not only America but also the UK and France.