The Life of Thomas Paine and the Influence of His Literary Pieces
Thomas Paine: An Intelligent Man and Influential Author
Thomas Paine was an amazing author that wrote “two of the most popular books in eighteenth-century America” as well as other influential pieces (Levine 681). Paine was a very intelligent and a remarkable individual that was unable to reach his immense potential due to England’s suppressive “hierarchal society,” because of this, he made his way to America and left a huge impact (Levine 681). In order to understand an author as influential as Paine, it is important to study his youth, some of his interesting associates, and the impact that was created with his writings (Levine 681).
As a young eight-year-old boy in England, Paine was exposed to a Christian sermon that was so cruel that it made him “rebel forever” against certain religious beliefs (Levine 681-702). He would eventually become a deist which “matched his political and social policy positions” much more than the Church of England (Fruchtman 23). Then, at the age of thirteen, Paine “apprenticed to his father to learn the trade” of corset making (Fruchtman 23). He went on to become a master corset maker but was a “terrible businessman” (Fruchtman 23). Paine was talented curious and taught himself many trades (Levine 681). As a young man, he held many jobs that varied in skillset such as “a tobacconist and grocer, a school teacher and an exciseman” (Levine 681). After failed attempts to change his status in England, he made his way to America (Levine 681). Once in America, with character letters in hand from Ben Franklin, he started his career as a Philadelphia journalist (Levine 681).
Before starting his career in journalism, Paine was a “spokesman against slavery” (Levine 681). When he started working as a journalist in Philadelphia, Paine wrote one of his most memorable pieces, Common Sense (Levine 681). Due to the fact that “Paine had made enemies,” he had these articles published anonymously (Onuf 239). This series of pamphlets was published in order to “urge immediate independence from Britain” (Levine 681). Although “some observers found his behavior reprehensible” they shared his sentiments because peoples view of relations with England were at an all-time low (Onuf 239). The timing was right and the pervasive momentum enabled the enormous sale of Common Sense to flourish “along the eastern seaboard and in France, Germany, and England” (Levine 681). The widespread popularity of Common Sense along with his next series, The Crisis, helped turn the perception of Paine around and lead to many political appointments (Levine 681). However, it wasn’t long until his hot-tempered nature, along with the misuse of power, proved that he wasn’t fit for public employment (Levine 681). In 1787, he would return to England where he would write “his second most successful work” titled Rights of Man that covered a passionate “plea against hereditary monarchy” something he opposed at a very early age (Levine 681).
The impact of these literary pieces was felt strongly throughout a time where the military really needed to be fortified. Paine may have exaggerated a bit when he described the Continental Army as “largest body of armed and disciplined men of any power under heaven” but it did inspire the troops (Drake 196). It was believed that the first Crisis paper titled “These are the times that try men’s souls” was read to George Washington’s troops and “did much to shore up the spirits” of the soldiers (Levine 681). Paine’s style of writing would also inspire very influential men like Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson (Levine 682). Although intellectuals admired his “new populist rhetorical style,” he also wrote in a way to make “those who can scarcely read understand” (Levine 682). As mentioned before, Paine’s writings were not always popular and after his return to England, they got him in trouble and he was charged with treason and fled to France (Levine 681). Just as his writings inspired the troops, his rebellious nature would have an impact on “later radicals” such as Walt Whitman (Levine 682). The impact of his writings would go on to have a profound effect on many writers in 18th Century America (Levine 681).
Several of Paine’s writings had huge impact that carried over many years and help shape early America by giving even the common man inspiration through his simple words (Levine 682). Although England’s suppressive “hierarchal society” made Paine’s future look very grim, he made his way to America changed history (Levine 681). By looking into Paine’s childhood, studying the impact he had on some of his associates, and taking a thorough look into the emotional impact stimulated and created in several nations with his writings (Levine 681). It is remarkably easy to see what made a sometimes-unlovable man seem extremely inspirational (Levine 681).
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