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Paine, Thomas. (1737 - 1809).

L i f e

>> left for Philadelphia on the eve of the American Revolution

- edited the journal Pennsylvania Magazine, or American Museum, published his numerous topical essays

- became a popular advocate of independence

W o r k

Common Sense:

- his most famous pamphlet on the source and function of government

- made use of conversational idioms of taverns, coffee-houses, and street-corner oratory

- advocated the “Declaration of Independence”

- made him the spokesman of the American Revolution

American Crisis:

- pamphlets encouraging the failing troops of the Revolutionary forces

< his own experience as an enlisted volunteer

The Rights of Man:

- advocated the ‘natural rights’: independence, personal freedom, freedom of speech, and franchise

- defended the French Revolution which he observed himself

The Age of Reason:

- praised both an impersonal God and the common people

- defended Deism

=> reproached and persecuted for his criticism of the Bible, called a ‘filthy little atheist’ by T. Roosevelt x but: his humanitarian impulses shaped much of the new nation’s thinking of the ‘natural rights’ and independence


"He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself".

From "First Principles of Government" (1795).


(Painting: George Romney. 1792. Source: Wikimedia Commons).

  • Author

    Thomas Paine. (1737 - 1809). British.
  • Work

    Libertarian. Revolutionary. Author of The Rights of Man (1791). 
  • Genres

    Political pamphlets. Essays.


Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.


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