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Paine, Thomas,1737–1809, Anglo-American political theorist and writer, b. Thetford, Norfolk, England. The son of a working-class Quaker, he became an excise officer and was dismissed from the service after leading (1772) agitation for higher salaries. Paine emigrated to America in 1774, bearing letters of introduction from Benjamin FranklinFranklin, Benjamin,
1706–90, American statesman, printer, scientist, and writer, b. Boston. The only American of the colonial period to earn a European reputation as a natural philosopher, he is best remembered in the United States as a patriot and diplomat.
..... Click the link for more information. , who was then in England. He soon became involved in the clashes between England and the American colonies and published the stirring and enormously successful pamphlet Common Sense (Jan., 1776), in which he argued that the colonies had outgrown any need for English domination and should be given independence. In Dec., 1776, Paine wrote the first of a series of 16 pamphlets called The American Crisis (1776–83). These essays were widely distributed and did much to encourage the patriot cause throughout the American RevolutionAmerican Revolution,
1775–83, struggle by which the Thirteen Colonies on the Atlantic seaboard of North America won independence from Great Britain and became the United States. It is also called the American War of Independence.
..... Click the link for more information. . He also wrote essays for the Pennsylvania Journal and edited the Pennsylvania Magazine. After the war he returned to his farm in New Rochelle, N.Y.
In 1787 Paine went to England and while there wrote The Rights of Man (2 parts, 1791 and 1792), defending the French RevolutionFrench Revolution,
political upheaval of world importance in France that began in 1789. Origins of the Revolution
Historians disagree in evaluating the factors that brought about the Revolution.
..... Click the link for more information. in reply to Edmund BurkeBurke, Edmund,
1729–97, British political writer and statesman, b. Dublin, Ireland. Early Writings
After graduating (1748) from Trinity College, Dublin, he began the study of law in London but abandoned it to devote himself to writing.
..... Click the link for more information. 's Reflections on the Revolution in France. Its basic premises were that there are natural rights common to all men, that only democratic institutions are able to guarantee these rights, and that only a kind of welfare state can secure economic equity. Paine's attack on English institutions led to his prosecution for treason and subsequent flight to Paris (1792). There, as a member of the National Convention, he took a significant part in French affairs. During the Reign of TerrorReign of Terror,
1793–94, period of the French Revolution characterized by a wave of executions of presumed enemies of the state. Directed by the Committee of Public Safety, the Revolutionary government's Terror was essentially a war dictatorship, instituted to rule the
..... Click the link for more information. he was imprisoned by the Jacobins from Dec., 1793 to Nov., 1794 and narrowly escaped the guillotine. During this time he wrote his famous deistic and antibiblical work The Age of Reason (2 parts, 1794 and 1795), which alienated many. His diatribe against George Washington, Letter to Washington (1796), added more fuel to the persisting resentment against him. At the invitation of the new president, Thomas Jefferson, Paine returned to the United States in 1802. However, he was practically ostracized by his erstwhile compatriots; he died unrepentant and in poverty seven years later. An idealist, a radical, and a master rhetorician, Paine wrote and lived with a keen sense of urgency and excitement and a constant yearning for liberty.
See his writings ed. by M. D. Conway (1894–96, repr. 1969); P. Foner, ed., The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine (2 vol., 1945); and representative selections ed. by H. H. Clark (1944, repr. 1961); biographies by D. F. Hawke (1974), A. Williamson (1974), J. Keane (1995), and C. Nelson (2006); studies by E. Foner (1976, repr. 1997), P. Collins (2005), H. J. Kaye (2005), C. Hitchens (2007), and S. Cotlar (2011).
Born Jan. 29, 1737, in Thetford, England; died June 8, 1809, in New York (USA). Public and political figure in the USA and Great Britain. A member of the revolutionary wing of the 18th-century Enlightenment.
In 1774, Paine left England for North America, carrying a letter of introduction from B. Franklin. He soon emerged in the forefront of the proponents of independence for the British colonies. In the pamphlet Common Sense (1776), Paine, taking as his point of departure rationalist theories of natural law and the social contract, advocated the idea of the sovereignty of the people and the right to revolution. He demonstrated that it was necessary for the North American colonies to break away from Great Britain and form an independent republic. The ideas expressed in Common Sense were reflected in the Declaration of Independence (1776). Paine, like Jefferson, favored the abolition of slavery.
During the War of Independence in North America (1775–83), Paine wrote a series of 13 pamphlets under the title The American Crisis (1776–83). From 1777 to 1779 he was secretary of the congressional Committee for Foreign Affairs, and in 1781 he took part in the Paris negotiations with the French government concerning aid for the North American colonies.
Paine was an ardent supporter of the French Revolution, which broke out while he was in Great Britain. In the treatise The Rights of Man (1791–92) he developed the ideas of popular sovereignty and republicanism and defended the revolutionary principles of the French Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen. Paine’s book was banned in Great Britain, and he was forced to emigrate to France, where he was elected a member of the Convention. However, he broke with the Jacobins on the question of the execution of Louis XVI, and in late 1793 he was put in prison, where he spent about a year. As a result of his experience in France, his social views developed, particularly his criticism of bourgeois property relations from a petit bourgeois standpoint. In Agrarian Justice (1797), he condemned the system of property distribution and speculated that labor is the source of capitalist profit. He developed a Utopian plan for state support of the poor through taxation of the propertied classes and through the nationalization of land under a redemption system.
Paine was among those who introduced atheistic traditions into America. In the Age of Reason (1794) the force of reason is decisively pitted against religious delusions. As a philosopher, Paine is perhaps best described as an inconsistent metaphysical materialist.
In 1802, Paine returned to the USA, where, persecuted by reactionary political and religious circles, he died in poverty. The views of Paine—the most consistent spokesman of the radical democratic tendency in the American sociopolitical movement of the late 18th century—directly influenced the shaping of the ideology of the Chartist movement in Great Britain.
WORKSThe Complete Writings, vols. 1–2. New York .
In Russian translation:
Izbr. soch. Moscow, 1959.
REFERENCESMarx, K., and F. Engels. Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 2, pp. 598–99; vol. 10, p. 365.
Aptheker, H. Istoriia amerikanskogo naroda [vol. 2]: Amerikanskaia revoliutsiia 1763–1783. Moscow, 1962.
Gromakov, B. S. Politicheskie i pravovye vzgliady Peina. Moscow, 1960.
Gol’dberg, N. M. Tomas Pein. Moscow, 1969.
Parrington, V. L. Osnovnye techeniia amerikanskoi mysli, vol. 1. Moscow, 1962.
Conway, M. D. The Life of Thomas Paine, vols. 1–2. New York-London, 1892.
Aldridge, A. O. Man of Reason: The Life of Thomas Paine. Philadelphia, 1959.
I. P. DEMENT’EV