A Compelling Man of His Time

Written by McKenna Gardner

“The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph” (Thomas). This is the life motto Thomas Paine adapted, as he spent his years on this earth substantially affecting the outcome of America. He was an ordinary young child, who became a man of great consequence in the world. His experiences as a young child, his accomplishments of considerable success during his lifetime, and his salient impact on the world paved the way to Thomas Paine being a man of great respect among people worldwide.

Not only did Paine overcome extreme hardship in his life, but he chose to allow the trials in his youth, shape him into the man he was destined to become. As a child, Paine’s parents habitually quarreled on the topic of religion. Because of his father’s Quaker beliefs and his mother’s Anglican beliefs, debating on matters of religion became a focal point in his life. In his later years, Paine said, “If there must be trouble, let it be in my day, that my child may have peace” (Thomas). There was great contention in his home, that he claimed a child should never have to endure. He deeply believed in the idea that love and peace should constantly be demonstrated among families in the home. However, in the long run, his father’s religious views influenced Paine’s writing of the Age of Reason and his political views that he would later develop. A few years later, Paine found himself in a rut of great debt, and he concluded that it was necessary to make adjustments in his life. Shortly after encountering Benjamin Franklin, who wheedled him into relocating to America, Paine sold his house in 1774, used the money to pay off his debts, and sailed to America. He landed his first job in America as an editor for Pennsylvania Magazine, where his interest in writing was sparked. Paine took advantage of the trying experiences in his youth and early adult life, using them to mold who he was as an adult and the way he thought and wrote.

During his lifetime, Paine acquired a great amount of success. Periodically, his writings became famous. Some of his more notable writings include The American Crisis, which consisted of a series of pamphlets separated into Common Sense, The Rights of Man, and the Age of Reason. He wrote countless books, papers, and pamphlets proving his knowledge of ideas ahead of his time. These pamphlets forced on Americans the ideas of the natural rights given to man and ideas concerning religion. While participating in the French Revolution, Paine wrote The Rights of Man, focusing on the rights every individual has guaranteed to them, and the government’s duty in protecting those rights. Age of Reason primarily centered on attacking orthodox Christianity. Paine stepped out of the norm in this pamphlet and as a result, was mocked and criticized for it. Nevertheless, he did not deny or repress what his beliefs were. He was a brilliant man, who in The American Crisis, inspired the American Revolution, helped the colonists to prosper in the American Revolution, and with his most famous line,“These are the times that try men’s souls”, pushed the demoralized Americans to not abandon their cause for revolution (Thomas). Because his writings were applicable and understandable to any citizen reading his material, they were heavily influential and powerful, resulting in his works becoming bestsellers. Because of Paine’s impressive diction and persuasive writings, he achieved notable success, uncommon for many writers of that time.

Paine’s writings of Common Sense, published in 1776 and considered his greatest achievement, left a lasting impact on the world (Schoenberg). This forty-eight-page pamphlet emphasized the push on Americans to declare their independence from Britain. The pamphlet fueled the American fire, and awakened society to the fact that the British, including King George III, were “…not to be trusted without being looked after” (Thomas). Paine saw things through a different perspective than the colonists, and understood how important it was that they put up their defenses, urging them to fight back against the British. This pamphlet was a prime factor in the Americans boost of morale and their proclamation for independence. Selling over 100,000 copies, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense played a key part in influencing the United States. Referring to Common Sense, Paine said, “Anyone sitting on the fence who encountered ‘Common Sense’ was probably no longer sitting on the fence” (Thomas). This pamphlet had such an intense impact on those who read it. As a result of his ability to intensely influence and persuade those who read his writings, Paine played a fundamental role in early American life.

Thomas Paine heavily affected the people of America during his life. Through his famous writings, he led America in a direction that was, at the time, perceived to be unconquerable. His writings led to wondrous events, such as America gaining her independence, giving people the opportunity to see ideas of human rights and religion through a different lens, and inspiring Americans in ways others could not. Although in his later years he was condemned by many for his criticism towards Christianity, and few attended his funeral, he died with a legacy that the American people remember today. He was a compelling man of his time that profoundly impacted America and influenced the people of his era in ways that have never be forgotten.





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