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the most radical founder of them all: Thomas Paine

Posted by: | September 29, 2014 | No Comment |


Thomas Paine was an influential British American political theorist who authored one of the most influential essays in American history known as Common Sense. The pamphlet, written in 1776, inspired Patriots to declare independence from Britain. His ideas were entrenched in Enlightenment-era classical liberalism and were the prevailing ideology behind the patriotic cause.



With the help of Benjamin Franklin, Paine emigrated to the colonies from his hometown of Thetford, England in 1774. Although not born of the English colonies, Paine believed that the colonies were ripe for his ideas of republicanism and revolution. During the course of the American Revolution, Paine wrote a pro-revolutionary pamphlet series titled The American Crisis in which he stoked the fires of liberty.


Following the signing of the Treaty of Paris, and the colonies’ victory over Britain, Paine headed to France to participate in the stirrings of the revolution there. In 1791 he wrote the Rights of Man, which was a defense of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on critics such as Edmund Burke let to his conviction in abstensia by the British Parliament. Two years later, Paine was arrested and imprisoned in Paris for his opposition to the more radical elements of the French National Assembly during the Reign of Terror.


Paine eventually escaped France and returned to the United States where he was once hailed as a hero. However, the American public had turned on him for his latest work the Age of Reason in which he criticized Christian doctrine. Paine also envisioned early progressive ideas in his work Agrarian Justice where he argued for the introduction of a guaranteed minimum income. Paine died in 1809 in social isolation for his radical ideas and only six people attended his funeral.

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