What Were Thomas Paine’s Role in American Revolution?

The year was 1776 and America had unanimously agreed that it was time to get her independence from Britain, its colonial masters. The troops were rallied, the battle line was drawn, and the stage was set for what would be the most important fight in centuries. The feelings across the land were united in ensuring that the British rulers were ousted from the country. However, while the battle was being fought, the citizens of the country became preoccupied with another issue. So intense was the interest in this new attraction that people met in different gatherings to discuss the contents of a newly released 47-page political pamphlet called Common Sense. This pamphlet railed against the British monarchy and encouraged Americans to remain steadfast in the war so they could finally be free. Everyone was curious about the identity of the author because it was published anonymously. It was only much later that the author was identified as a man named Thomas Paine.

Who was Thomas Paine?

Thomas Paine was a prominent writer, international revolutionary, political activist, and controversialist of the 18th century. He was listed as one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. His two pamphlets, Common Sense (1776) and Rights of Man (1791-1792), were influential in starting the American Revolution. They also inspired the leaders of the revolution to declare independence from Britain in 1776. Paine’s interest was not only limited to America, he was deeply involved in the French Revolution. He achieved notoriety because of his pamphlet Age of Reason which rejected the Christian doctrine and advocated for the philosophy of deism. Paine’s ideas also indicated an influence from the Enlightenment movement popular in18th century Europe. He was also the first person to introduce the idea of a guaranteed minimum wage.

In this article, we shall examine the role he played in the American Revolution:

He rallied Americans into action
Paine was an Englishman who had immigrated to America on the invitation of Benjamin Franklin, and had fallen in love with the country. During the first stages of the clash with Britain, Paine was on the side of reconciliation. He urged Americans to down their weapons and negotiate with the British. But that changed when the British troops opened fire on the American militia in Massachusetts. This unfortunate incident left 8 members of the militia dead and 13 of them wounded. Paine immediately abandoned his previous stance and turned into a radical and a Patriot. He renounced his English citizenship and fully aligned with the American cause. Using his job as a newspaper editor, he called on Americans to stop the dependence on the British and to assume responsibilities for their welfare. Paine declared that the war was not just about America gaining its independence from Britain. It was also a fight for the realization of a democratic republic where everyone would be equal in the eyes of the law.

He attacked the British monarchy

Americans had an emotional attachment to Britain and its monarchy. They romanticized its attributes and were supportive of its government. Paine knew that if he was to get the people committed wholeheartedly to the war, he had to sever this attachment. He began by stating that the monarchy was a ridiculous institution which oppressed its people. Pained faulted the British system of government which deprived the citizenry of the right to select their leaders. He also rubbished the claims that the British crown was divinely ordained. Paine appealed to the egalitarian and religious sentiments in Americans. And since he was once a native of Britain, his opinions were readily accepted by the American public.

He conceived a vision of an independent America

Another part Thomas Paine played in the American Revolution was the role of a visionary. Since America was under the rule of Britain, they had no identity of their own and were simply referred to as British. Paine rejected this title and urged Americans to stop bearing the name of their colonial masters. He painted a vision of independence for the people and asked that they call themselves Americans. He compelled the people to stop seeing themselves as subjects under British rule. Rather, they should view themselves as people who were free before God and the law. Paine also depicted a vision of the future United States as a nation-state, rather than thirteen different states. He was actively in favor of America adopting the republican system of government. Furthermore, he suggested a one chamber congress that would be headed by a rotating president. And for those who were still skeptic about America’s ability to survive on its own, he asked them to look inwards at the resources the country had.

He raised aids for the troops

Paine’s role was not restricted to attacking the British or motivating Americans to fight for their country.  He was also actively involved in raising supplies for the troops involved in the war. While working as a clerk for the Pennsylvania General Assembly, he learned that the troops were in dire need of food and supplies. And because the available supplies were thin and limited, they had to be rationed so it could go round. As a result of this, the morale of the troops was low. Paine considered this unacceptable. He saw no reason why those who were risking their lives for the country’s independence should survive on extremely meager rations. He immediately began a donation effort to raise supplies for the troops.  He called on Americans to bountifully donate to the cause. He also asked the French for aid. He and Benjamin Franklin were able to convince the French government to provide financial assistance to the country’s troops. This action earned him monetary gifts and a small farm in upstate New York.

Conclusion

Thomas Paine was an advocate for an equal society devoid of oppression, discrimination, and exploitation. He believed that everyone, irrespective of gender or race, had the right to be free. Through his writings and actions, he was able to motivate and inspire the nation of America to overthrow their colonial master and regain their freedom.

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