Monday, September 9, 2013

Thomas Paine Biography

Thomas Paine (1737-1809)

v     Born in England, he received five years of grammar school, then became a sailor for a short time in his teens.

v     In 1759, age 22, Paine set up a shop making corsets and married Mary Lambert. She died in childbirth that same year, along with the infant. Devastated, his business collapsed, and he traveled around Britain, doing a variety of jobs.

v     He remarried to Elizabeth Olive in 1771 and wrote a pamphlet arguing for better pay and working conditions, for which he was soon fired.

v     Facing debt and possibly prison, Paine moved to America in 1774, just three years before the American Revolution. His new wife did not wish to leave, so they divorced.

v     In America he wrote the political pamphlets Common Sense (1776) and American Crisis (1776-1783) to support the American Revolution. His works were very persuasive (presvedčivý) and influential (vplyvný), earning him the title The Father of the American Revolution.

v     Common Sense sold over 500,000 copies in only three months. Paine wrote it anonymously, and donated his profits to George Washington’s army.

v     John Adams said, “Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.” However, later in life Adams called it a “crapulous mass”, as he opposed Paine’s vision of democracy. Paine felt that all men should be able to vote and run in elections, not just land owners.

Paine’s arguments in Common Sense:
  1. It was absurd for an island to rule a continent.
  2. America was not a “British nation”, but was composed of people from all over Europe.
  3. Even if Britain were the “mother country” of America, that made her actions all the more terrible, for no mother would harm her children so brutally.
  4. Being a part of Britain would drag America into unnecessary European wars, and keep America from international business at which it excelled.
  5. Paine believed that democracy was superior to monarchy because it would lead to peace. J
  6. The distance between the two nations made governing the colonies impractical. If some wrong were to be petitioned (žiadane) to Parliament, it would take a year before the colonies get a response.
  7. The New World was discovered right before the Reformation (when people started to challenge the religious authority of the king). The Puritans believed that God wanted to give them a safe haven (útulok) from the persecution (útlak) of British rule.
  8. Britain ruled the colonies for her own profit, and did not consider the best interests of the colonists.
Quotes from Common Sense:

“…Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil…”

“Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.”

The American Crisis begins:

“These are the times that try men's souls: The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like Hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as freedom should not be highly rated.”

v     After the war, Paine moved to France where he supported the French Revolution, writing Rights of Man.

v     In 1792 he was elected to the French National Convention (revolutionary parliament), although he was arrested the next year as the opposing political side took power. He wrote The Age of Reason (1793-94) while in prison (he was then released). This book advocated deism – the belief that, while God exists, religious institutions such as churches and their doctrines are corrupt and false.

v     In 1795, he wrote Agrarian Justice, suggesting the idea of a minimum wage (minimálna mzda).

v     He returned to America in 1802 and died in 1809. Only six people attended his funeral. He was ostracized because of his belief in deism.

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