Born in England, Thomas, never Tom, arrived in the United States at age 37. His first wife and child died during childbirth. He was separated from his second wife and dreadfully sick with typhoid when he arrived in North America. In his pocket was a letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin.
Paine was before his time and we should be grateful for the tremendous sacrifices he made. His pamphlet, Common Sense, ignited the common people into action toward the Revolutionary war in a way no other leader had been able to.
He did not hold back his opinions on religion writing, “All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.” Paine was a deist but at that time, that was not enough. He was hated by John Adams and denounced by the founding fathers. Some of his radical ideas also included social security for the poor and elderly, abolition of slavery and universal basic income.
Paine was also active in the French Revolution at great personal cost to himself.
A sculpture of Thomas Paine is displayed in Paris. It was created by Gutzon Borglum, the sculptor who created Mount Rushmore and Stone Mountain. Paine would be disgusted to know that Borglum was a known KKK member.
Disparaged by his enemies, condemned, outlawed and incarcerated for making his beliefs public, there were only 6 people who attended his funeral. Even the Quakers would not allow him to be buried in their graveyard. On his deathbed, Paine was asked if he believed that Jesus Christ was the son of God. Paine’s reply, and last words were, “I have no wish to believe on that subject.”
I deeply admire Thomas Paine for his incredible writings as well as his courage. Standing up so publicly for what he believed cost him nearly everything but even at the end of his life with nothing left to lose, he stood by his convictions.