Thomas Paine

Napoleon Bonaparte said, “There are only two powers in the world, the sword and the pen; and in the end, the sword is always conquered by the pen.” Today, I want to talk to you about a man who was a master penman, a man who is credited as the leading exponent of independence for the American colonies. His books and pamphlets did more to stir the revolutionary spirit of the Colonies than any other factor. Can you name this man? He was Thomas Paine. Can you name the important pamphlets he wrote in America? They were Common Sense and a series of pamphlets entitled The American Crisis.
Thomas Paine was born in England in 1737. He engaged in several occupations before coming to America at the age of thirty-seven. He had been a corset maker and a printer and also a government clerk, but he had been dismissed from the government service, so he came to America and settled in Philadelphia just two years before the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress.
Paine is given a great deal of credit for this action by the Congress, for he had published his first article calling for independence seven months before the Declaration was signed. This pamphlet was titled Common Sense, and it sold 120,000 copies in three months and a total of 500,000 copies within six months. This pamphlet of only fifty pages was fiery in spirit and demanded complete independence for the Colonies.
Here are some passages from his writing:
The period of debate is closed. Arms must now decide the issue. Where say some is the king of America? I’ll tell you, friend. He reigns above and doth not make havoc of mankind, like the royal brute of Britain. A government of our own is our natural right.
The sun never shone on a cause of greater worth.
Ye that oppose tyranny, stand forth.
Paine joined the revolutionary army and took part in Washington’s defeat at New York and his retreat across New Jersey. It was in this crucial period that Paine wrote the first of his famous articles under the title The American Crisis. It contained these stirring words, “These are times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of all.” General George Washington was so impressed with Paine’s pamphlet that he ordered it read to all of his soldiers.
Tom Paine continued to wield his master pen all through the War. After the War, he served as Secretary to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Continental Congress. But Tom Paine was bored with mundane employment and, having become rather wealthy from the sale of his pamphlets and other articles and the owner of two tracts of land, he soon quit his job and took off for France, where the French Revolution was brewing.
He became a moving force in the French Revolution, and for a time served on the Directory set up by the revolutionaries to rule France after they deposed their king and destroyed the monarchy. But fortunes change. Paine’s group lost control of the government, and Paine ended up in a French jail where he languished until our ambassador James Monroe was able to have him freed and sent back to the United States.
While in the French prison he began to write an essay titled “The Age of Reason,” where he made sharp attacks against religion and the organized churches of his day. Many former friends and admirers turned against him and he lived out the rest of his life in poverty and obscurity.
Tom Paine was an unusual character. Some people thought he was some kind of a nut. One historian says Paine went to visit a friend and stayed five years. He was always borrowing money, which he never repaid. Nut he might have been, but when he took his pen in hand, powerful words flowed like a mighty stream and strongly affected his readers. Without Tom Paine, it is doubtful if there would have been a Declaration of Independence and a victorious Revolutionary War.

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