THOMAS PAINE, the most noted polit ical and deistical writer of the Revolutionary period, was born in England,
January 29, 1737, of Quaker parents. His education was obtained in the grammar schools of Thetford, his native
town, and supplemented by hard private study while working at his trade of stay maker at London and other cities
of England. He was for a time a dissenting preacher, although he did not relinquish his employment. He married
a revenue official's daughter, and was employed in the revenue service for some time. He then became a grocer and
during all this time he was reading and cultivating his literary tastes, and had developed a clear and forcible
style of composition. He was chosen to represent the interests of the excisemen, and published a pamphlet that
brought him considerable notice. He was soon afterward introduced to Benjamin Franklin, and having been dismissed
from the service on a charge of smuggling, his resentment led him to accept the advice of that statesman to come
to America, in 1774. He became editor of the "Pennsylvania Magazine," and the next year published his
"Serious Thoughts upon Slavery" in the "Pennsylvania Journal." His greatest political work,
however, was written at the suggestion of Dr. Rush, and entitled "Common Sense." It was the most popular
pamphlet written during the period and he received two thousand five hundred dollars from the state of Pennsylvania
in recognition of its value. His periodical, the "Crisis," began in 1776, and its distribution among
the soldiers did a great deal to keep up the spirit of revolution. He was made secretary of the committee of foreign
affairs, but was dismissed for revealing diplomatic secrets in one of his controversies with Silas Deane. He was
originator and promoter of a subscription to relieve the distress of the soldiers near the close of the war, and
was sent to France with Henry Laurens to negotiate the treaty with France, and was granted three thousand dollars
by congress for his services there, and an estate at New Rochelle, by the state of New York.
In 1787, after the close of the Revolutionary war, he went to France, and a few years later published his "Rights
of Man," defending the French revolution, which gave him great popularity in France. He was made a citizen
and elected to the national convention at Calais. He favored banishment of the king to America, and opposed his
execution. He was imprisoned for about ten months during 1794 by the Robespierre party, during which time he wrote
the "Age of Reason," his great deistical work. He was in danger of the guillotine for several months.
He took up his residence with the family of James Monroe, then minister to France and was chosen again to the convention.
He returned to the United States in 1802, and was. cordially received throughout the country except at Trenton,
where he was insulted by Federalists. He retired to his estate at New Rochelle, and his death occurred June 8,
A Biographical Record
Of Schuyler County, New York
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
New York and Chicago 1903.
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