Thomas Paine was born on January 29th, 1737 in Thetford England. He was born to modest circumstances, the son of Quaker craftsman who sewed whale bones into the stays of ladies corsets, Paine (the name was originally spelled “Pain” with the “e” added later) tried has hand at corset-making, starting at the age of twelve as his father’s apprentice.
At the age of twenty he took to the sea as a privateer. Two years later, in 1759, he opened his own stay-making shop. The next year he married a servant girl, and only a year after that both she and their child died in childbirth.
Paine struggled through the ensuing years. Trying his hand as a schoolteacher and later as a tax collector. In 1771 he married a grocer’s daughter. Three years later he was fired from his job, all his possessions were sold to pay off his debts, and his childless second marriage fell apart.
Paine’s life was going nowhere. So he did what all Englishmen did with nothing left. He sailed to America.
On the journey across the Atlantic he became sick with Typhus, arriving in Philadelphia in December of 1774 so ill that he had to be carried off the ship.
And thus was the inauspicious beginning in America of the man whose words inflamed and inspired a revolution.
“The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind”
And so it was with these words and the resolve of a ragged yet determined Continental Army led by George Washington, who had Paine’s “The Crisis” (These are the times that try men’s souls…) read to his men before his surprise attack on a British outpost in the Winter of 1776, that the cause was established as one for all mankind.
Paine was a rough man. In his later years he was reviled by many of his more famous contemporaries, primarily due to his unwavering polemic against Christianity and any other sort of organized religion. Thomas Paine was a devout Deist, believing that God was found in nature and nowhere else, and that all the affectations and words prescribed to God was phony posturing. Another attempt to curb the innate freedom of Man.
He died destitute, lonely, and unkempt, and barely a handful of people mourned at his funeral.
Nonetheless, it is through his words that even today we are able to define the spirit of ’76 that galvanized a people and created a nation like no other ever seen on the face of the Earth.
Happy Birthday, Mr. Thomas Paine.