Page last updated at 10:50 GMT, Sunday, 5 July 2009 11:50 UK

Town remembers Paine anniversary

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine wrote his first political work while living in Lewes

A 10-day festival has begun in an East Sussex town to mark its links with a British radical pamphleteer called the "father of the American revolution".

President Barack Obama quoted Thomas Paine, who died 200 years ago this year, in his inauguration speech.

Paine lived in Lewes for six years from 1768, when he was appointed as an excise officer in the town.

He lodged with a family at Bull House in the high street, which is open for tours as part of the festival.

The festivities got under way on Independence Day, 4 July, with an exhibition at Lewes Town Hall and a play at Lewes Theatre Club.

Better pay

Thomas Paine was born into a Quaker family in Thetford, Norfolk, in 1737 but moved to Kent as an adult, where he lived in Sandwich and Margate.

While living in Lewes he wrote his first political work - a 21-page pamphlet that demanded better pay and conditions for his fellow workers.

By chance he met Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the US, in London in 1774.

Following Franklin's advice, Paine went to America in November 1774, and threw his lot in with those Americans who wanted independence from Britain.

In January 1776 he published a short pamphlet, Common Sense, that earned him the title The Father of the American Revolution.

It put the case for democracy, against the monarchy, and for American independence from British rule and was described by the Pulitzer-winning historian Gordon S Wood as "the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire [American] revolutionary period".

He also spent time in France but returned to America, where he died on 8 June 1809 in Greenwich Village, New York.

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