Many would argue that he was the Founding Father of the nation; to quote John Adams (not exactly the biggest Paine admirer), "Without the pen of Paine, the sword Washington would have been wielded in vain." Hell, he fucking named the country.
He advocated strongly and eloquently for independence from the monarchy, which none of his contemporaries envisioned originally (and had not changed their minds until they heard his arguments for it). He wrote the smash hit, Common Sense, which gained popularity even among Europeans, and gave the money to the Continental Army. He wrote and sent his second smash hit, The American Crisis, that convinced Franco-Spanish military might and Dutch finance to help win the war for the colonies. He was one of the first to call for total abolition of slavery and the death penalty. He was an ardent supporter of secularism, and famously turned his pen against religious authority in The Age of Reason. The secularism would later be codified into the Constitution under the idea of separation of church and state.
After the Revolution, he harshly opposed any attempt at barring non-landowners from voting, warning that this was tyranny-in-waiting and rationalizing that praising republican values but not letting everyone be represented was utterly hypocritical. He turned his pen in defense of liberty — rather an attack on Edmund Burke — in The Rights of Man, which in turn inspired Mary Wollstonecraft — the mother of feminism — to pen The Rights of Woman. Even before Common Sense, Paine wrote an article criticizing the ways in which women are oppressed in society and defending their rights at a time when most men thought they had none. He pushed for a centralized, egalitarian government that respected and upheld all rights to all citizens.
While some of his quotes make him beloved by libertarians, he also wrote of the need for all people to be given a small sum by the government, and then to be provided for in their old age, which was considered "generations ahead of its time." Paine proposed a form of estate tax in order to implement this.
“”Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.
“”[C]reate a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property. And also, the sum of ten pounds per annum, during life, to every person now living, of the age of fifty years, and to all others as they shall arrive at that age.
“”It is the living, and not the dead, that are to be accommodated. When man ceases to be, his power and his wants cease with him; and having no longer any participation in the concerns of this world, he has no longer any authority in directing who shall be its governors, or how its government shall be organised, or how administered.
“”Without the pen of the author of Common Sense, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.
- Is it true that Thomas Paine first coined the phrase, "The United States of America?" Thomas Paine National Historical Association
- History of the Separation of Church and State in America by R. G. Price (March 27, 2004) rationalrevolution.net
- Taking Liberties: The struggle for Britain's freedoms and rights, The British Library (archived copy from March 21, 2016).
- Thomas Paine — Agrarian Justice Social Insurance History (Social Security Adminsitration) (archived copy from February 10, 2017). "Various methods may be proposed for this purpose, but that which appears to be the best… is at the moment that property is passing by the death of one person to the possession of another. In this case, the bequeather gives nothing: the receiver pays nothing. The only matter to him is that the monopoly of natural inheritance, to which there never was a right, begins to cease in his person."
- Glenn Beck is Thomas Paine, Except for Everything by Chris Kelly (05/16/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011) The Huffington Post.