If one word can characterize the first half of Tom Paine's life, that word would be "failure." Just about everything he tried to do in those early decades did not work out. No one could have predicted that he would prove himself to be one of the world's great original thinkers.
In this book, acclaimed biographer Milton Meltzer tells the fascinating, turbulent story of Tom Paine. Born in a small English town, Paine tried his hand at several professions but achieved little success. Self-educated, he found himself drawn to politics and writing.
In 1774, Paine arrived in the American colonies and took a job editing a magazine. His simple but incisive political pamphlet Common Sense was published in 1776. Widely read, it helped bring about the Revolutionary War by making Americans realize that independence was their true goal and that a republican government was vastly superior to a hereditary monarchy. Common Sense spoke to the times and the people; its powerful arguments linked political ideas to the everyday experience of Americans. "We have it in our power to begin the world over again," Paine declared. During the American Revolution, Paine wrote The American Crisis, a series of essays that reported on the progress and meaning of the war and kept up the nation's morale during hard times when defeat seemed imminent.
After the was, Paine enjoyed widespread fame but soon made powerful enemies. He returned to England in 1787, where he wrote The Rights of Man (1791), a defense of the French Revolution. The controversy surrounding this work forced Paine to flee his native land. He was warmly received in France and elected to the National Convention. During the Reign of Terror, however, he was imprisoned and only by a stroke of luck escaped execution.
Paine returned to the United States but died penniless and alone in 1809. After his death, Paine became regarded as an American patriot and an important crusader for democratic rights. His influential writings have shaped democratic movements worldwide. [from the jacket]