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Thomas Paine Thomas Paine truly proved the adage that “the pen is mightier than the sword” for were it not for his writing of Common Sense, it is possible that the American Revolution never would have happened. The work for which he is most famous is his tract Common Sense. Common Sense spoke out against British rule and was one of the primary works that fomented the American Revolution. Most every literate person in the colonies was familiar with it – with over one in every six people owning a copy. Common Sense helped convince George Washington and other colonists to rise up against the British. Thomas Paine spoke out against a number of issues where people’s rights and liberties were infringed including slavery. His tract on slavery was his first published work. On April 14, 1775 the first anti-slavery society in America was founded with Paine being a charter member. During the Revolutionary War, he wrote The American Crisis. The American Crisis starts with the immortal lines “These are the times that try men’s souls.” It was instrumental in heartening the troops and the colonists during this trying period. George Washington ordered the first part to be read to the troops at Valley Forge and it reawakened the dispirited troops will to fight. After the Revolution, Paine traveled throughout Europe and tried to support freedom and liberty wherever it was in jeopardy. For a period, he was a supporter of the French Revolution but when it started getting out of hand and people were being killed for vengeance, he became opposed to the war. For this, the French sentenced him to be beheaded. He only lived because when the person who was to put an X on the door of each prisoner to be executed, visited the cells, Thomas Paine’s door was open. When the doctor who was treating Paine left, the door swung inwards putting the executioner’s mark on the inside of the cell. In 1805, John Adams wrote “I know not whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs for the last thirty years than Tom Paine.” Napoleon said of him in 1800 “ a statue of gold should be erected to him in every city of the earth.” (It must be pointed out despite the compliment, Paine did not like Napoleon.) Thomas Paine passed away on June 8 th, 1809. Although his classic work Common Sense was a best seller, he died in poverty with few friends – only six of which attended his funeral. His bones were lost several years later while they were being shipped to England.
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