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Thomas Paine - revolutionary

Lucinda Adam
Lucinda Adam
The Politics Show
South East

Thomas Paine was an 18th Century citizen of East Sussex and Kent who went on to change the world.

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine - intellectual and political thinker

A revolutionary, an intellectual, a pamphleteer, a radical and even an inventor - Thomas Paine is one of the most influential people of the modern age.

He believed in radical change rather than small tweaks to existing systems and was a keen supporter of independence and revolution.

Common sense

Paine was anti-monarchy, anti-aristocracy, opposed to slavery and wanted support for the poor through free education and a minimum income.

But for many people, Thomas Paine was a forgotten man in Britain, until President Barack Obama quoted him in his inauguration speech.

Barack Obama
Barack Obama quoted Paine in his inauguration speech

It was then that his profile came back into the spotlight 200 years after this death.

His pamphlet Common Sense gave American colonists the idea of a state free from the rule of the British monarchy.

Paine is even credited as coining the phrase "The United States of America".

Years later, his American Crisis pamphlets are said to have steadied the revolutionaries to continue their battle when they read his words - "These are the times that try men's souls".

Revolutions and republics

After returning to London, Paine turned his attention to making Britain a republic in his Rights of Man works.

But his controversial ideas made him so unpopular that he left again and fled to France, where he participated in the French Revolution.

He was elected to the National Convention, despite not being able to speak French.

A remarkable life

Thomas Paine was born into a Quaker family in Norfolk in 1737.

When he reached adulthood, he moved to Sandwich and later Margate in Kent.

Lewes - home of revolutionary thinker Thomas Paine

But in 1768 he was appointed to Lewes as an excise officer, where he lived with a family who ran a tobacco business at the Bull House in the town's high street.

Paine lived in Lewes for six years, during his early thirties.

One Paine enthusiast, Paul Myles, who has spent the last 18 months researching a book on Paine, says that Lewes was influential in forming his political views, because at the time it was a very progressive town.

The Headstrong Club

The Headstrong Club, a debating group of which Paine became a prominent member, still continues to meet today.

The Politics Show South East comes live from Lewes to mark the 200th anniversary of Thomas Paine's death.

In July 2009, the town will hold a festival of events in his honour. For more information visit:

Common Sense by Thomas Paine
Common Sense by Thomas Paine

With Parliament in a period of crisis, if Thomas Paine were alive how would he have been campaigning?

Perhaps Paine would have been the most influential internet blogger of his day, spreading his thoughts around the world?

What do you think? E-mail the team via the e-mail form below...

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