Biography (Dictionary of World Biography: The 17th and 18th Centuries)
Article abstract: Paine was a participant in both the American and French revolutions, and, through his writings, he attempted to foment revolution in England as well. He was interested in the new scientific ideas of his age, spent considerable energy on the design of an iron-arch bridge, and tried to resolve the age-old conflicts between science and religion by espousing Deism.
Thomas Paine was born January 29, 1737, in Thetford, England. His father, Joseph Pain (the son later added a final “e” to his name), was a Quaker staymaker. Working as a craftsman, he provided whalebone corsets for local women. Paine’s mother, Frances Cocke, the daughter of a local attorney, was an Anglican, older than her husband and of difficult disposition. As a daughter died in infancy, the Pains then concentrated all of their efforts on their son. Thomas was taught by a local schoolmaster from the age of seven to thirteen and then apprenticed to his father to learn the trade of a staymaker. This was clearly not entirely to his liking, as he managed at one point to run away and spend some time at sea. Upon his return, he practiced his craft in various places in England. In 1759, Paine married Mary Lambert, but his wife died a year later. Dissatisfied with his occupation, he tried others, including a brief stint at schoolteaching and perhaps also preaching. Still seeking his niche in the world, Paine returned home for a time...
(The entire section is 2513 words.)
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Paine was the son of a Quaker small farmer and staymaker in Norfolk, England, who always acknowledged the influence of Quaker principles on his political ideas. At thirteen he entered his father’s business, but after three years went briefly to sea. By the late 1750’s he was again working as a staymaker. In 1761 he was appointed a government excise-tax agent, only to be fired four years later for making fraudulent reports. A letter of apology got him reinstated, however, and he got a new position in Lewes. Paine’s pen first got him into trouble in 1772, when an organization of excisemen asked him to prepare a petition for higher wages. The pamphlet he wrote for them was distributed widely. In April, 1774, he was fired for being absent without leave, but the more likely explanation for his dismissal was his pamphlet.
(The entire section is 141 words.)
Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Thomas Paine was the son of Frances Cocke and Joseph Paine. After grammar school, at the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed in his Quaker father’s trade as a corset maker until he left home at nineteen. After that he was briefly a privateer, a schoolmaster, a grocer, and a tobacconist. He also worked as an exciseman to patrol the coastline against smugglers; during this time he was twice discharged, the second time from lobbying at Parliament for higher salaries for excisemen. He was twice married, first, to Mary Lambert, who died within a year of their marriage in 1759, and then in 1771 to Elizabeth Ollive, from whom he was legally separated in 1774. He met Benjamin Franklin at Westminster, who gave him letters of introduction when Paine left for America in 1774.
After his arrival at Philadelphia, Paine edited The Pennsylvania Magazine, contributed articles to the Pennsylvania Journal on recent inventions, in which he was widely read, and wrote miscellaneous papers. Publication of Common Sense in 1776 established his fame and probably sold 500,000 copies at a loss. He urged America’s moral obligation to the world to seek independence for its own sake and to free the almost uncontaminated continent from monarchy by the establishment of a strong federal republic. Enlisting in the Continental army in the same year, he began The American Crisis essays with the phrase “These are the times that try men’s souls.”...
(The entire section is 872 words.)