Born in England, the son of a Quaker, unsuccessful in a series of jobs, Thomas Paine was advised by Benjamin Franklin to emigrate to America. Britain’s loss was certainly our gain. Establishing himself as a publicist and then an editor, Paine’s writings provided the fuel for the colony’s break with the mother country. Professing to offer “nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments and common sense” in his much-discussed provocative pamphlet, Common Sense. Paine became even more urgent in his follow-up,The Crisis, by declaring these the “times that try men’s souls” and exhorting his fellow Americans to join the fight for Independence, rather than acting as the “the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot.” Lacking the formal training of Jefferson or Adams, Paine’s direct, passionate words stirred the political pot, providing effective propaganda for the Cause. Paine led by example by contributing to the national bank. Standing against gratuitous bloodshed, Paine was jailed for opposing the execution of dethroned king Louis XVI. While in prison, his Age of Reason began publication, praising the Age of Enlightenment, but causing him to lose favor because he was branded an atheist. Returning to the United States on Thomas Jefferson’s invitation, Paine returned to America, but discovered his work during the Revolution had been largely forgotten.
Able teachers, speakers and writers, both Gulick and Paine remind us to recognize our rights as human beings and to take responsibility for ensuring our freedoms by taking action. Known for the written word, Paine was also quite the singer/songwriter. For instance, he wrote new words to old favorites, like “Liberty Tree.” Steve Gulick offers audience members of all ages an opportunity to join him in Paine’s version of the song.