Thomas Paine was born in 1737 to a poor Quaker in Thetford, England. In his early life, he was surrounded mostly by farmers and the uneducated. He left school at the age of twelve, and shortly after became apprenticed to his father as a corset maker. This trade was to follow him throughout his days in England as his 'something to fall back on' while exploring various career options. After several years and failed ventures, Paine moved to Lewes in East Sussex in 1768 to be a schoolteacher. Here he became involved for the first time in civic matters, with his landlord Samuel Ollive introducing him into the Society of Twelve, a local ÃÂ©lite group which met twice a year to discuss town issues. Paine also participated in the Vestry, the influential church group that collected taxes and tithes and distributed them to the poor.
In 1772, Paine published his first political work,"The Case of the Officers of Excise", a twenty-one page article in which he proposed the need for better pay and working conditions for excisemen.
He met Benjamin Franklin in London two years later. Franklin must have seen something of himself in his fellow non-orthodox Quaker, and advised him to emigrate to America. A month later, in October 1774, Paine sailed for Philadelphia armed with a letter of recommendation from Franklin and a legal separation from his second wife. His intentions were to set up a school, but instead he got a job as co-editor of Pennsylvania Magazine for a humble salary of fifty pounds a year.
As luck would have it, Paine had arrived on the threshold of the American Revolution. The 'Shot Heard 'Round the World' was fired a mere six months from his arrival, and the Battle of Bunker Hill soon after prompted Paine to...