One of the most important figures of the American Revolution was Mr. Thomas Paine. Paine was born in Thetford, England in 1737. He was never formally educated, but did learn a satisfactory amount of arithmetic, as well as how to read and write. Like many of the era, Paine began to work with his father at a young age. The elder and youngest Paines made ropes used on ships, a common need seeing as Thetford was a shipbuilding town. Although he ended up carrying many jobs during his time spent in England, many view most of his life there as a series of failures. After his business went under, both his wife and child died in childbirth, and he was fired from his job as an officer of the excise, Thomas Paine was thankful enough to meet Benjamin Franklin, who advised Paine to move to America.
Paine journeyed across the Atlantic and arrived in America on November 30, 1774. His first job was as an editor for the Pennsylvania Magazine. This is the point in his life that he got into writing the most. He utilized propaganda to serve a goal. His first major contribution to the American Revolution came shortly after the Battles of Lexington and Concord when he wrote “Common Sense”. This 30 page pamphlet argued that Americans should not be content with simply not paying taxes to the British, but that the rebels should fight for outright autonomy from the motherland. This was pure propaganda. It wasn’t necessary to convince leadership and the elite that fighting for freedom was the right thing to do, but the wide spread pamphlet was used to convince the common folk that the fight was for something bigger than themselves. Enthusiasm for the war became abundant after Paine’s famous piece. The pamphlet sold over 500,000 copies in a few months, and paved the way for the Declaration of Independence in 1776.
Throughout the Revolutionary War, Paine rode with the continental army. Though not a soldier, Paine had a critical role as a journalist, which he utilized in writing his known series: The American Crisis. The writing came at a time of need, as morale was low, and people were losing hope that America could win the war. With famous lines such as “These are the times that try men’s souls” and “Tyranny, life hell, is not easily conquered”, Paine was able to appeal to the soldiers and provide a message that the end result would be worth the current struggles.
After the War, Paine would continue writing, and eventually went back across the pond to have a role in the French Revolution. He became an inventor with a fascination for bridges, which was a passion he followed to make the second iron bridge ever built. In the early parts of the 19th century, Paine returned to America, where he would spend his final years. He died in 1809, and immediately was underappreciated, with his obituary claiming “he had lived long, did some good and much harm.” Over time, he would grow to be respected for his crucial role in the Revolution.