Thomas PaineThomas Paine (born Thomas Pain; – June 8, 1809) was an English-born American Founding Father, political activist, philosopher, political theorist, and revolutionary. He authored ''Common Sense'' (1776) and ''The American Crisis'' (1776–1783), two of the most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, and he helped to inspire the Patriots in 1776 to declare independence from Great Britain. His ideas reflected Enlightenment-era ideals of human rights.
Paine was born in Thetford, Norfolk and emigrated to the British American colonies in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin, arriving just in time to participate in the American Revolution. Virtually every American Patriot read his 47-page pamphlet ''Common Sense'', which catalyzed the call for independence from Great Britain. ''The American Crisis'' was a pro-independence pamphlet series. Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. While in England, he wrote ''Rights of Man'' (1791), in part a defense of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on Anglo-Irish conservative writer Edmund Burke led to a trial and conviction ''in absentia'' in England in 1792 for the crime of seditious libel.
The British government of William Pitt the Younger was worried by the possibility that the French Revolution might spread to Britain and had begun suppressing works that espoused radical philosophies. Paine's work advocated the right of the people to overthrow their government and was therefore targeted with a writ for his arrest issued in early 1792. Paine fled to France in September, despite not being able to speak French, but he was quickly elected to the French National Convention. The Girondins regarded him as an ally; consequently, the Montagnards regarded him as an enemy, especially Marc-Guillaume Alexis Vadier, the powerful president of the Committee of General Security. In December 1793, he was arrested by him and taken to Luxembourg Prison in Paris. While in prison, he continued to work on ''The Age of Reason'' (1793–1794). James Monroe used his diplomatic connections to get Paine released in November 1794.
Paine became notorious because of his pamphlets and attacks on his former allies, who he felt had betrayed him. In ''The Age of Reason'' and other writings, he advocated Deism, promoted reason and freethought, and argued against religion in general and Christian doctrine in particular. In 1796, he published a bitter open letter to George Washington, whom he denounced as an incompetent general and a hypocrite. He published the pamphlet ''Agrarian Justice'' (1797), discussing the origins of property and introducing the concept of a guaranteed minimum income through a one-time inheritance tax on landowners. In 1802, he returned to the U.S. He died on June 8, 1809, and only six people attended his funeral, as he had been ostracized for his ridicule of Christianity and his attacks on the nation's leaders. Provided by Wikipedia