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American Revolutionary leader, author of the Common Sense pamphlet
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  • Thomas Paine

    Thomas Paine (born Thomas Pain, 9 February 1737 N.S. (29 January 1736 O.S.] – 8 June 1809) was an English-born American political activist, philosopher, political theorist and revolutionary. One of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he authored the two most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution, and he inspired the rebels in 1776 to declare independence from Britain.


    Paine, Thomas (1737-1809), by David Fitzsimons, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism, 15 Aug 2008
    Biographical and bibliographical essay discussing the main themes in Paine's writings
    Thomas Paine was an agitator and a political pamphleteer with strong anarchist leanings. Paine enthusiastically participated in the American and French Revolutions as an advocate of individual rights and minimal government. He authored several of the most popular and influential works of the age, including Common Sense, The Crisis, Rights of Man, Age of Reason, and Agrarian Justice ... The main thrust of his political philosophy remained a classical liberal one, and his life and writings consistently reflect that tradition in the nature of his support for the French and American Revolutions.
    Related Topics: Free trade, The State, War

    Images - Thomas Paine
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    29 Jan 1737, in Thetford, Norfolk, England


    8 Jun 1809, in Greenwich Village, New York City


    The Life of Thomas Paine: With a History of his Literary, Political and Religious Career in America, France, and England, Volume I, by Moncure D. Conway, 1892
    Covers the period from Paine's birth until 1793
    ... he was suspected of being a British spy, and might have been roughly handled in Philadelphia had it not been for Franklin. Possibly this suspicion may have arisen from his having, in the anti-slavery letter, asked the Americans 'to consider with what consistency or decency they complain so loudly of attempts to enslave them, while they hold so many thousands in slavery.' Perfectly indifferent to this, Paine devoted the autumn of 1775 to his pamphlet 'Common Sense' ...


    Thomas Paine National Historical Association
    New Rochelle, New York; dedicated "To educate the world about the life, legacy, and works of Thomas Paine"; includes text of Paine's writings, essays and videos about him and other resources

    Web Pages

    Advocates for Self-Government - Libertarian Education: Thomas Paine - Libertarian
    Biography (from Laissez Faire Books) and picture (of portrait)
    By advice of Benjamin Franklin, whom he met in London, he came to America and at once found employment for his pen. He was a contributor to the first issue of the Pennsylvania Magazine, published in Philadelphia in January, 1775, and soon after its editor and so continued for eighteen months. From August, 1776, to January, 1777, he was a soldier in Washington's army, and it was while at the front that he wrote the first number of The Crisis which so powerfully heartened the country for the struggle.
    Freedom Fighters » Thomas Paine
    Quotation and links to selected online resources by and about Paine
    Thomas Paine -
    Short profile and links to essays, columns and other resources about Paine
    Author of Common Sense, The Rights of Man, and The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine is considered one of the fathers of the American Revolution.
    Thomas Paine - Online Library of Liberty
    Includes picture, short profile, links to The Rights of Man and The Writings of Thomas Paine (4 vols.) and to related quotations
    Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was a vigorous defender of and participant in both the American and French Revolutions. His most famous work is Common Sense (1776) which was an early call for the independence of the American colonies from Britain. His other well known work is The Rights of Man (1791) which was a reply to Burke's critique of the French Revolution.


    Timeline - The Thomas Paine National Historical Association
    Chronological listing of Paine's writings from 1772 to 1809, with links to each text


    Benjamin Franklin: The Man Who Invented the American Dream, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Apr 1997
    Lengthy biographical essay, including a section on the posthumous publication and reaction to Franklin's Autobiography
    In October 1775, Franklin talked with an impassioned English immigrant whom he had met in London, suggesting the Englishman write a history of the present transactions. Indeed, the young man was already at work on such a project ... It was published as a 47-page pamphlet on January 10, 1776 ... The young man was Thomas Paine, and the pamphlet was Common Sense, whose eloquent call for independence electrified people throughout the colonies. In just a few months, Common Sense sold some 120,000 copies. With this single mighty blow, Paine banished efforts to achieve a reconciliation with Britain.
    Libertarians of Will, Intellect, and Action, by Murray N. Rothbard, Jul 1977
    Keynote address to the Libertarian Party Convention; based on the "Turning Point, 1777/1977" convention theme, compares the American Revolution against the British with the contemporary libertarian situation versus the state
    This final act [desanctifying the king] was necessary to any outright American break for independence;... the mortal blow was delivered by the unknown, impecunious pamphleteer Tom Paine, another English-born laissez-faire radical who performed this feat in his runaway best-seller, Common Sense. Paine realized that this final act of demystification had to be couched radically, in no mincing or uncertain terms, thus cutting the final umbilical cord not only with Great Britain, but also with the age-old established principle of monarchy ... He referred to King George as "the royal brute of England" ...
    Module 3: Thomas Paine's Common Sense and Thomas Jefferson and the Declaration of Independence
    Third module of the Cato Home Study Course, includes link to listen or download audio program (two parts, 1:18:20 and 1:13:52), questions and suggested readings
    Thomas Paine (1737-1809) wrote several books and pamphlets that greatly contributed to 'delegitimizing' the claims to authority of the British state. Paine asserted that 'society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one' and directed the reader to the discussion of the nature of rulers in the Bible (I Samuel 8, included in the readings for this module).
    The Philosophy of Paine, by Thomas Edison, The Diary and Sundry Observations of Thomas Alva Edison, 7 Jun 1925
    Edison laments the lack of interest in Paine's writings, outlines his life, discusses the main writings and encourages others to read him
    We never had a sounder intelligence in this Republic. He was the equal of Washington in making American liberty possible. Where Washington performed Paine devised and wrote. ... I consider Paine our greatest political thinker. As we have not advanced, and perhaps never shall advance, beyond the Declaration and Constitution, so Paine has had no successors who extended his principles. ... There is no doubt whatever that the two great documents of American liberty reflect the philosophy of Paine.
    The Spanish-American War: The Leap into Overseas Empire: Part 2, by Joseph R. Stromberg, Freedom Daily, Jan 1999
    Discusses the Philippine-American War, that followed the Spanish-American War, and the actions and writings of the Anti-Imperialist League, William Graham Sumner and other opposed to the war and colonialism
    Already in the late 18th century, the great Anglo-American classical liberal Thomas Paine had characterized the futility of [political engrossment of overseas markets] when he wrote: "The most unprofitable of all commerce is that connected with foreign dominion. To a few individuals it may be beneficial, merely because it is commerce; but to the nation it is a loss. The expense of maintaining dominion more than absorbs the profit of any trade."
    Thomas Paine - Hero of the Day, The Daily Objectivist, 2000
    Biographical profile published by The Daily Objectivist; excerpted from the first pamphlet in The American Crisis
    These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value.
    Thomas Paine on Commerce, by Gary M. Galles, Mises Daily, 16 May 2003
    Selection of Thomas Paine quotes, from The Rights of Man, on trade, particularly between different nations and contrasted with war
    Paine is primarily remembered for his fiery rhetoric in favor of American revolution and independence. But in The Rights of Man, in which he tries to "establish a system of principles as a basis on which government ought to be erected," he shows that commerce, or free trade, is not only deducible from those principles, but interference with such commerce impoverishes the nations involved as well ... America would benefit from remembering what [he] warned of as "the greedy hand of government, thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry," at the behest of some against others.
    Related Topics: England, Free trade, War
    Thomas Paine—Passionate Pamphleteer for Liberty, by Jim Powell, The Freeman, Jan 1996
    Biographical essay, highlighting Paine's writings in Common Sense, American Crisis, Rights of Man and Age of Reason
    As nobody before, Thomas Paine stirred ordinary people to defend their liberty. He wrote the three top-selling literary works of the eighteenth century, which inspired the American Revolution, issued a historic battle cry for individual rights and challenged the corrupt power of government churches. His radical vision and dramatic, plainspoken style connected with artisans, servants, soldiers, merchants, farmers, and laborers alike ... His devastating attacks on tyranny compare with the epic thrusts of Voltaire and Jonathan Swift, but unlike these authors, there wasn't a drop of cynicism in Paine.
    Tom Paine's Revolution, by J. Brian Phillips, The Freeman, Apr 1989
    Relates how Paine's Common Sense pamphlet managed to change public opinion during the American Revolution and hopes this may prove instructive for the modern freedom movement when dealing with the many who favor continuation of the status quo
    Despite these criticisms, Common Sense had an unprecedented influence on the minds of the American people. Paine estimated that 150,000 copies were sold in the first year; other estimates went as high as 500,000 copies. With fewer than 3 million people in the colonies at the time, either figure is astounding. Nearly every adult read the pamphlet, and less than seven months after its publication independence was declared.
    What Should Libertarians Do?, by Sheldon Richman, The Goal Is Freedom, 25 Apr 2014
    Examines what libertarianism requires of people, such as an understanding of economics, and suggests focusing on the (classical) liberal insight that "societies run themselves" spontaneously, with example quotes from Thomas Paine and John Quincy Adams
    [O]ne of liberalism's most groundbreaking insights ... was beautifully summarized by Thomas Paine in Rights of Man:
    Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of government. It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to government ... Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their law; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of government. In fine, society performs for itself almost everything which is ascribed to government.


    Common Sense, 14 Feb 1776
    Full title: Common Sense; Addressed to the Inhabitants of America, On the following interesting Subjects:
    I. Of the Origin and Design of Government in general, with concise Remarks on the English Constitution.
    II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession.
    III. Thoughts on the present State of American Affairs.
    IV. Of the present Ability of America, with some miscellaneous Reflections.
    Pamphlet written by Paine in 1775 and 1776, advocating independence from Britain
    Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom ... These proceedings may at first appear strange and difficult ... until an independance is declared, the Continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity.
    Related Topics: England, Government, Society


    Claiming Paine: The contested legacy of the most controversial founding father, by Katherine Mangu-Ward, Reason, Jul 2007
    Review of the book Thomas Paine and the Promise of America (2006) by Harvey J. Kaye
    Paine (1737–1809) was a mercurial figure, cropping up with a well-timed pamphlet at most of the major events of the revolutionary era, on both sides of the Atlantic ... He ... found himself at the center of a brewing American rebellion, at which point he made his debut ... with Common Sense. Paine went on to pen several more world-shaping works, including The Crisis (1776), a rallying cry in the darkest days of the Revolutionary War ...; Rights of Man (1791), a pro-revolution reply to Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France; and The Age of Reason (1794), a deist manifesto.

    Books Authored

    The Age Of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology, 1794
    Partial contents: The Author's Profession Of Faith - Of Missions And Revelations - Concerning The Character of Jesus Christ, And His History - Of The Bases Of Christianity - Examination In Detail Of The Preceding Bases - Of The True Theology
    The American Crisis, 9 Dec 1783
    Series of pamphlets published between 1776 and 1783; preface by Moncure Daniel Conway; electronic text available at Wikisource
    The Life and Major Writings of Thomas Paine: Includes Common Sense, the American Crisis, Rights of Man, the Age of Reason and Agrarian Justice, Aug 2000
    Collected, edited and annotated by Philip S. Foner


    Thomas Paine Lecture, by Christopher Hitchens, 25 May 2006
    Lecture given at Brighton Dome, Brighton, England; Hitchens discusses Thomas Paine's life and writings, in particular Rights of Man, and how they influenced early America and the French revolutionary period; includes audience Q&A period

    The introductory paragraph uses material from the Wikipedia article "Thomas Paine" as of 14 Jul 2018, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.