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Lived: 1737-1809

Thomas Paine was an English writer best known for his pamphlet "Common Sense," an argument for self-determination of the colonies. Paine was born in England, moving to the United States at the recommendation of Benjamin Franklin, the elder statesman seeing potential in the young writer. Paine would go on to pen numerous charged pamphlets promoting war against England. George Washington is said to have been personally enthused by Paine's "The Crisis." Paine's writings, though, became too revolutionary for even the young United States, and Paine returned to Europe, moving to England, then France. In France during their Revolution, he became exceedingly popular for his work "The Rights of Man." But when he refused to support the execution of the King, Paine was jailed and nearly executed himself. Only the intervention of the American James Monroe saved Paine's neck. Paine would write two more major works before his death: "The Age of Reason" and "Agrarian Justice." "The Age of Reason" was a bitter assault on religion while "Agrarian Justice" put forth a number of revolutionary ideas, such as Social Security. Yet both further alienated Paine and the brilliant writer, once famous throughout the United States and Europe, would die almost completely alone.