Synopses & Reviews
Thomas Paine was the impassioned democratic voice of the Age of Revolution, and this volume brings together his best-known works: Common Sense, The American Crisis, Rights of Man, The Age of Reason, along with a selection of letters, articles and pamphlets that emphasizes Paine's American years. I know not whether any man in the world,” wrote John Adams in 1805, has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs for the last thirty years than Tom Paine.” The impassioned democratic voice of the Age of Revolution, Paine wrote for his mass audience with vigor, clarity, and common sense.” This Library of America volume is the first major new edition of his work in 50 years, and the most comprehensive single-volume collection of his writings available. Paine came to America in 1774 at age 37 after a life of obscurity and failure in England. Within fourteen months he published Common Sense, the most influential pamphlet for the American Revolution, and began a career that would see him prosecuted in England, imprisoned and nearly executed in France, and hailed and reviled in the American nation he helped create. In Common Sense, Paine set forth an inspiring vision of an independent America as an asylum for freedom and an example of popular self-government in a world oppressed by despotism and hereditary privilege. The American Crisis, begun during the times that try mens souls” in 1776, is a masterpiece of popular pamphleteering in which Paine vividly reports current developments, taunts and ridicules British adversaries, and enjoins his readers to remember the immense stakes of their struggle. Among the many other items included in the volume are the combative Forester” letters, written in a reply to a Tory critic of Common Sense, and several pieces concerning the French Revolution, including an incisive argument against executing Louis XVI. Rights of Man (17911792), written in response to Edmund Burkes attacks on the French Revolution, is a bold vision of an egalitarian society founded on natural rights and unbound by tradition. Paines detailed proposal for government assistance to the poor inspired generations of subsequent radicals and reformers. The Age of Reason (17941795), Paines most controversial work, is an unrestrained assault on the authority of the Bible and a fervent defense of the benevolent God of deism. Included in this volume are a detailed chronology of Paines life, informative notes, an essay on the complex printing history of Paines work, and an index.
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About the Author
Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England, in 1737, the son of a staymaker. He had little schooling and worked at a number of jobs, including tax collector, a position he lost for agitating for an increase in excisemen's pay. Persuaded by Benjamin Franklin, he emigrated to America in 1774. In 1776 he began his American Crisis series of thirteen pamphlets, and also published the incalculably influential Common Sense, which established Paine not only as a truly revolutionary thinker, but as the American Revolution's fiercest political theorist. In 1787 Paine returned to Europe, where he became involved in revolutionary politics. In England his books were burned by the public hangman. Escaping to France, Paine took part in drafting the French constitution and voted against the king's execution. He was imprisoned for a year and narrowly missed execution himself. In 1802 he returned to America and lived in New York State, poor, ill and largely despised for his extremism and so-called atheism (he was in fact a deist). Thomas Paine died in 1809. His body was exhumed by William Cobbett, and the remains were taken to England for a memorial burial. Unfortunately, the remains were subsequently lost.Eric Foner is DeWitt Clinton Professor of History at Columbia University. A winner of the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates, Foner is an elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the British Academy. He has served terms as President of both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians. He is also author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Fiery Trial.
Table of Contents
Common sense -- The crisis, and other pamphlets, articles, and letters -- Rights of man -- The age of reason.