Form and Content

(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Tom Paine, Revolutionary is a biography of a significant figure of early American history. Olivia Coolidge describes the major historical events of Paine’s life, focusing on his career as a writer and as a champion of the revolutionary ideas of the Enlightenment.

Paine was born in 1737 in Thetford, England. After leaving grammar school at the age of thirteen, he was apprenticed to his father, a corset maker. Finding the corset business particularly boring, he left home in pursuit of a more productive career, moving from town to town for several years and holding various jobs, none of which engaged his interest.

In 1774, after becoming politically active in England, Paine made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin, who was in England at the time representing the American colonists’ cause. Franklin immediately took a liking to this brilliant and hot-headed young man, recognizing his great potential for becoming a political activist. Franklin urged Paine to set sail for America, where he might use his talents in support of the coming revolution.

Coolidge explains how, armed with a letter of introduction from Franklin, Paine settled in Philadelphia in 1774, where he began his writing career. His first great work, and probably his best known, was Common Sense (1776). A pamphlet promoting American independence, Common Sense assessed the British-American conflict from an American point of view. It was an immediate success. Paine’s next important work, The American Crisis (17761783), was a collection of...

(The entire section is 644 words.)