Why is Thomas Paine often referenced as one of the strongest advocates of personal choice?
Thomas Paine was an eloquent writer and publisher, which enabled him to make his ideas and feelings widely known in the colonies.
His first major work in support of the American Revolution was "Common Sense," a pamphlet that set out Paine's interpretation of how government developed in the colonies and how it was being stripped of power and overridden by what he described as the "tyranny" of the British government. He strongly advocated that
Absolute governments (though the disgrace of human nature) have this advantage with them, that they are simple; if the people suffer, they know the head from which their suffering springs, know likewise the remedy, and are not bewildered by a variety of causes and cures.
and that the colonists were completely justified in rebelling against this tyrannical authority and forming a new government, more appropriate to the needs and circumstances of America.
"Common Sense" was widely read and proved to be extremely influential in convincing many that revolution was necessary. In following years, Paine wrote and published many other works, all advancing the need for governments to serve the rights of the individuals in the society, not for the individuals to serve the government.
Not all the treasures of the world, so far as I believe, could have induced me to support an offensive war, for I think it murder; but if a thief breaks into my house, burns and destroys my property, and kills or threatens to kill me, or those that are in it, and to "bind me in all cases whatsoever" to his absolute will, am I to suffer it?