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.
... 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
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.
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.
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.
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" ...
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.
Already in the late 18th century, the great Anglo-American classical liberal Thomas Paine had characterized the futility of such ventures [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.
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.
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.
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