You’ve probably heard of Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, and George Washington – all men who played a vital role in the Revolutionary War, but what about Thomas Paine? Most of the Founding Fathers were highly educated, wealthy men who held prominent positions. Thomas Paine was a man of the people. His fiery pamphlet, Common Sense, inspired people everywhere to fight for the cause of liberty.
Thomas Paine was born in England in 1737. He failed in school and later became a tax collector. He was fired twice from this job. He came to America in 1774 and studied journalism.
Paine joined the Continental Army, but wasn’t a very successful soldier. Then he wrote a short political pamphlet, Common Sense, which urged Americans to seek freedom from Great Britain.
Paine’s writing was simple and easy to understand. Americans hadn’t been thinking about independence from Great Britain, but Paine’s writing inspired them. More than 150,000 copies were sold in just a few months.
George Washington used Paine’s words to rally troops. He said, “These are the times that try men’s souls. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”
Thomas Paine played a vital role in the American Revolution, but his later writing angered people and made them forget the good work he had done during the Revolutionary War.
Paine wrote papers against organized religion, which made him very unpopular. He was thrown in prison and almost executed in France for his political views during the French Revolution.
Paine died in 1809. Only six people attended his funeral.
1. Prominent: important, visible
2. Pamphlet: a short booklet or paper containing only a few pages
3. Unpopular: disliked by most people
Questions and Answers
Question: Did anyone else encourage the colonists to seek independence from Great Britain?
Answer: Samuel Adams had been urging Congress to seek independence for several months, but he wasn’t as skilled at reaching the common people.
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