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Thomas Pain

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British-Amer. political philosopher. After an early life of failed prospects in England, he met B. Franklin, who advised him to emigrate to America. He arrived in Philadelphia in 1774 and helped edit the Pennsylvania Magazine. In January 1776 he wrote Common Sense, a 50-page pamphlet eloquently advocating independence; more than 500,000 copies were quickly sold, and it greatly strengthened the colonists' resolve. In the Amer. Revolution he served as a volunteer aide to Gen. N. Greene and wrote the 16 Crisis papers (1776-83), each signed "Common Sense"; the first, beginning "These are the times that try men's souls," was read to the troops at Valley Forge on G. Washington's order. Paine traveled to England in 1787 and became involved in debate over the French Revolution; his The Rights of Man (1791-92) defended the revolution and espoused republicanism; seen as an attack on the monarchy, it was banned and Paine was declared an outlaw in England. He went to France, where he was elected to the National Convention (1792-93). He criticized the Reign of Terror and was soon imprisoned by M. Robespierre (1793-94). After his release, he remained in Paris and wrote The Age of Reason (1794, 1796), a work on Deism and an attack on organized religion. He returned to the U.S. in 1802; criticized for his Deist writings and little remembered for his service to the Revolution, he died in poverty.

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