Thomas Paine, born 29 January 1737 in Thetford in Great Britain and died 8 June 1809 in New York, was the English intellectual, pamphleteer, and revolutionary, who became American after emigrating to the United States at the age of 37 years. He is known for his commitment during the American Revolution in favor of the independence of the thirteen British colonies in North America. He has exhibited his positions in a famous pamphlet under the title Common Sense, published a few months before the signing of the American Declaration of Independence in 1776.
His writings, which include Rights of Man (1791) also had a great influence on actors of the French Revolution: he was elected to the National Assembly in 1792. Considered by the Montagnards as an ally of the Girondins, he was gradually sidelined, especially by Robespierre and imprisoned in December 1793.
After the Terror, he was released and had some success with his book The Age of Reason (1793-1794), which analyzes the Christianity and advocates of deism. In Agrarian Justice (1795), he analyzes the origins of property rights and introduced the concept of Basic Income, close to the minimum wage.
Thomas Paine remained in France until 1802, during which he criticized the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte, calling the First Consul “the most perfect charlatan that ever existed.” At the invitation of President Thomas Jefferson, he returned to the United States where he died at age 72.
Abraham Lincoln was interested to read his writings. Thomas Edison called him an inventor.
Thomas Paine is now considered one of the founding fathers of the United States. The philosopher Bertrand Russell honors Thomas Paine in his tribute book Why I am not a Christian, devoting an entire chapter (8. The Fate of Thomas Paine) to the life of the latter, and the risks capable to show too much independence of mind.
There is a museum dedicated to Thomas Paine in New Rochelle and his house (Thomas Paine Cottage) is named as a National Historic Landmark. A statue was erected on King Street, Thetford, his native village. It represents him with a quill and his book Rights of Man.
The University of New York also has a bust of him. Other statues are located in Morristown, New Jersey, Bordentown, New Jersey, and in the Parc Montsouris in Paris. A small street in Diss bears his name. In Paris, rue de l’Odeon, a plaque marks the spot where he lived between 1797 and 1802. Every year, between 4 and July 14, the Lewes Town Council organizes a festival in honor of Thomas Paine.
The writer Manuel Joseph refers to Thomas Paine in his book Heroes are heroes are heroes (1994) as follows: “Thomas Paine wrote many years ago that there has / moments / that test men’s souls and these so well known words are very true.”
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