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Thomas Paine

Tom Paine was born in England and worked as a tax collector and political writer. Through the auspices of Benjamin Franklin, Paine came to the colonies in 1774 as the editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine. Lasting fame resulted from the publication of Common Sense in January 1776, followed some months later by the first of a series of pamphlets called The Crisis. With the continental forces in retreat, American readers received encouragement from the installments of The Crisis. In addition to his polemical writing, Paine served on the Committee on Foreign Affairs for the Continental Congress and as a clerk to the legislature in Pennsylvania. Following the War for American Independence, Paine left for England.

In 1791-92 he published The Rights of Man, a justification of the French Revolution; the treatise was suppressed in that country. Fleeing to France, Paine became politically active and was elected to the National Convention. In 1793, during the Reign of Terror, Paine was imprisoned by the Jacobins. During his confinement, he penned The Age of Reason, which embraced the popular deistic views of the day and was regarded as critical of the Bible. In 1796, Paine published a "Letter to George Washington," in which he attacked the soldierly reputation and policies of America`s hero. Paine returned to the United States in 1802. He died in New York City in 1809, a lonely, bitter and destitute man. His remains were later taken to England for reburial but were lost.