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Thomas Paine

1737-1809. Deistic writer and political propagandist. Born in Thetford, Norfolk, he had a monotonous life as corset maker, exciseman, teacher, and grocer until he sailed to America in 1774 with letters of introduction from B. Franklin.* In 1776 he published Common Sense, the 500,000 copies of which argued for a republic: “it must come to that some time or other.” He was secretary to the foreign affairs commission in 1778-79. He returned to England in 1787, and 1792 was indicted for treason on publication of his book The Rights of Man. He escaped to France, where he had been made a citizen, and was elected to the Convention. The Age of Reason was published there (1794-96). This brought suspicion and imprisonment and roused British and colonial indignation with its Deistic arguments. He returned to America in 1802 and died there seven years later, having alienated most of his friends by his unpredictable allegiances.

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