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Examining Thomas Payne, the Patriot.

Thomas Paine was a strong advocate in favor of the Patriots’ cause. Paine was actually a native of England, having been born there in the town of Thetford in 1737; however, he immigrated to America in the early 1770s and settled in Pennsylvania, where he began to publish political writings. Moderately well-off but not exceedingly wealthy by any standards, Paine was technically a corset-maker (of all things!) by trade–– however, his political & sociological writings, which he started to delve into, initially merely as a hobby he did ‘on the side’. Paine never was elected to or held any major political office but nevertheless maintained his status as a revered political theorist and elder statesman of sorts for the remainder of his career in America. Paine’s primary arguments revolved around focusing on the tyranny, of King George III and his government, towards the colonies and upon the concept of the right of government naturally belonging to the people, not to the ruler. Through making urgent calls to action, Paine sought to convince as many of the common people in the American colonies as he could to set aside the high risks of attempting to break away from the powerful British Empire by convincing them that the consent of the governed— borrowing from principles of John Locke— was utterly violated in the Crown’s treatment of the colonies. He favored the creation of a democratic republic in the aftermath of a prospective independence.

The following excerpt sums this up quite nicely: “Americans could not break their ties with Britain easily. Despite all the recent hardships, the majority of colonists since birth were reared to believe that England was to be loved and its monarch revered. Fear was another factor. Any student of history was familiar with the harsh manner the British employed on Irish rebels. A revolution could bring mob rule, and no one, not even the potential mob, wanted that. Furthermore, despite taxes, times were good. Arguments can be made that average American was more prosperous than the average Briton. Yet, there were the terrible injustices the colonists could not forget. Americans were divided against themselves. Arguments for independence were growing. Thomas Paine would provide the extra push.”

As part of the American war effort, Paine would go on to be appointed as the Secretary to the Committee of Foreign Affairs not long after independence was formally declared. He would become embroiled in a minor scandal after he accused Silas Deane, a Patriot diplomat, of widespread corruption, for which he was initially ostracized by the American public— but Paine was later exonerated when his accusations against Deane were found to be, in fact, correct after all. He would later engage in a feud with conservative Anglo-Irish writer Edmund Burke and was tried on charges of libel against Burke.

Paine is universally recognized as the author of the pamphlet “Common Sense” (1776), in which he argued in favor of American independence from the British Empire. His other most prominent works include “The American Crisis” (1776) and, after the American Revolution had already ended, Rights of Man and The Age of Reason. Other characters/figures who supported the independence movement and who Paine would be allied with in this debate include Samuel Adams, Patrick Henry, James Otis, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson. In contrast, Loyalists and British leaders whom Paine would have rivaled include Edmund Burke, Daniel Leonard, William Pitt the Younger, and Dr. Samuel Johnson.

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