A man who put his whole heart and soul into political reform, passionate writer Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was born on this day in England.
In 1774, with encouragement from Benjamin Franklin, Paine moved to Philadelphia. Less than two years later, he anonymously published the historic 47-page pamphlet Common Sense which urged colonial independence from Great Britain.
"A government of our own is a natural right," he wrote. "The sun never shined on a cause more just." Common Sense was an immediate hit, selling 120,000 copies in three months.
When the revolution broke out, he enlisted. Some said Paine's The American Crisis was written on a drumhead near a campfire while he was with George Washington's retreating army.
Paine's eloquent plea for patriotism encouraged and stirred the disheartened spirit. "These are the times that try men's souls," he observed, praising all who stood up and fought for freedom. "The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph."
Paine moved to France and published The Rights of Man in 1791, which again opposed the idea of monarchy and defended the French Revolution. To escape being tried for treason, he fled to Paris, where he wrote The Age of Reason (1793). Paine was imprisoned, freed with the help of James Madison, and returned to America in 1802.
Thomas Paine, who courageously pioneered the American voice and coined the words, "The United States of America," once said his writing would "avoid every literary ornament and put in language as plain as the alphabet." Six months after Common Sense, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, changing history, as did Paine, with his whole heart and soul.
Go lightly on yourself.