Thomas Paine's Life

Timeline created by hail.shreff
  • His Birth

    Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, Norfolk to his parents, Joseph and Frances Paine.
  • Schooling

    Schooling
    Paine was enrolled in Thetford Grammar School, where he will study until 1749. Paine failed out of school when he was just 12 years old.
  • Apprenticeship

    Apprenticeship
    Paine began apprenticing for his father, a stay-maker. He again failed.
  • At Sea

    Thomas enlists as a privateer, and sets sea on the King of Prussia.
  • Stay-maker

    Paine sets up his own business as a master stay-maker in Sandwich, Kent
  • 1st Marriage

    Thomas married Mary Lambert, who was the daughter of an excise officer. Mary was an “Orphan of Sandwich”. This meant she had no one left to provide for her until Thomas
  • Moving Back

    Paine moves back with his parents and studies to be an excise officer after the death of his wife during the labor of their premature child who also suffered the same fate.
  • Excise Officer

    Thomas takes up employment as an excise officer in Thetford.
  • Job as an Excise Officer

    Paine is transferred to Alford and his salary is 50 euros.
  • Losing his Job

    Paine is fired for claiming to inspect goods that he didn't.
  • Reinstatement?

    Paine applies to be reinstated to the Board of Excise but must wait for a vacancy. Over the next two years, he would be a stay-maker, servant, and even apply to be an ordained minister.
  • Reinstated

    After a short time as a school teacher in London, He regains his position as an excise officer and moves to live above the tobacco and snuff shop owned by Samuel and Ester Ollive.
  • Humanitarian Work

    Paine becomes involved with the Society of the Twelve. This was a local intellectual group that discussed town politics. He also becomes a member of the Vestry Church group that collects taxes to distribute among the poor
  • 2nd Marriage

    Paine marries Elizabeth Ollive, following setting up a tobacco business with Elizabeth and her mother after her father's death.
  • First Publication

    First Publication
    Paine writes his first publication, 'The Case of the Officers of Excise', a 21- page article asking parliament for better working conditions and payment.
  • Fired, Again

    Thomas is fired from his job at the excise service due to being absent from his post without permission, after distributing his pamphlets in London. His tobacco business with his wife has also failed.
  • Ben Franklin

    Ben Franklin
    Paine is introduced to Benjamin Franklin by a friend and Franklin has been impressed by his writings. Franklin suggests emigration to British Colonial America.
  • Emigration to British Colonial America

    Paine decides to emigrate to British Colonial America and barely survives the voyage after the ship's water supplies are bad and typhoid fever kills five passengers.
  • Debtor's Prison

    To avoid being sent to debtor's prison, Paine sells his household possessions to pay his debts off.
  • Divorce

    Paine formally separates from his wife, Elizabeth Ollive. He moves to London with 45 euros from his settlement.
  • In British Colonial America

    On arriving at Philadelphia, Paine is too sick to leave the ship and Benjamin Franklin's physician has him carried off the ship. He takes nearly six weeks to recover.
  • The American Revolution Begins

    The American Revolution Begins
    The first shots of the Revolution are fired at Lexington and Concord between armed militiamen and British soldiers sent to destroy their weapons depot.
  • The Free and United States of America

    Paine writes in a pamphlet, of the 'Free and Independent States of America', which is later to become the United States of America.
  • Common Sense

    Common Sense
    Following his new job at, a new magazine in Pennsylvania, Paine published his 96-page pamphlet on the independence from British rule. It was written in a simple style and was widely read.
  • The Declaration of Independence

    The Declaration of Independence
    The Declaration of Independence is made, declaring the 13 American Colonies are now independent states, and are no longer attached to the British Empire.
  • Pennsylvania Associators' March

    Paine joins the Pennsylvania Associators' March to Perth Amboy; He also works as a war correspondent for the Philadelphia papers.
  • Paine in the Army

    Paine in the Army
    Paine's forces join Washington's Army in New jersey. He is told the country needs him writing, not fighting. He walks 35 miles to Philadelphia expecting to be captured. After seeing the city in chaos, he writes the first of his "Crisis Papers", which is hurriedly printed and distributed.
  • Battle of Trenton

    Paine's words are read to soldiers crossing the Delaware River with low morale and lead them to an inspiration filled victory after a surprise attack in Trenton. This is a major turning point in the war.
  • Secretary

    Paine becomes Secretary of of the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs, but is expelled in 1779 after his writing alluded to secret negotiations with France.
  • Going to France

    Paine and John Laurens go to France to seek help with the war effort. They return to America in August with nearly 10 million for the war effort.
  • Treaty of Paris

    The Treaty of Paris is signed effectively ending the American Revolutionary War. The document is later ratified by US Congress and King George III. The documents are exchanged in Paris on 12th May, 1784.
  • The End of the War

    Following the departure of the British Troops, Washington marches his army, including Thomas Paine down Broadway in Manhattan in celebration.
  • Reward and Personal Victory

    For acknowledgement of Paine's service, the Congress awards him $3000 and New York State gives him a confiscated royalist farm in New Rochelle.
  • Iron Bridge

    Paine leaves America for Paris in search of sponsors for a bridge he wants to build.
  • U.S. Constitution

    U.S. Constitution
    The United States Constitution is adopted by the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and ratified in the name of "the people".
  • Iron Bridge Patent

    Paine's bridge design receives an English patent and it does not become successful at this time, but the design will be used for the Sunderland Bridge later on.
  • The Rights of Man

    Paine publishes "The Rights of Man", a radical work calling for representative democracy and proposing Republican government.
  • Rights of Man Part II

    Paine publishes, "Rights of Man" the second part and it advocates establishing a republic and proposes alleviating poverty through progressive income tax. Its cheap price means its widely read.
  • Writs of Government

    The British Government issues a writ against Thomas Paine for wicked and seditious writings.
  • Arrested

    Paine is arrested for being a supporter of Louis Capet. He is imprisoned in the Luxembourg prison in Paris, under the threat of execution.
  • Age of Reason

    Paine finishes writing "Age of Reason" while in Jail.
  • Published

    "Age of Reason" is published. This attack on organized religion brings him many enemies.
  • George Washington

    Paine writes an abusive letter to George Washington, after believing he personally betrayed him. The letter directly attacks his military reputation and presidential policy.
  • Agrarian Justice

    "Agrarian Justice" is published and Paine highlights that landownership separates most people from their rightful, natural inheritance, and means of independent survival.
  • Returning to America

    Paine returns to America at the invitation of Thomas Jefferson. He finds himself widely condemned for his anti-religious views.
  • Louisiana Purchase

    Paine finds himself instrumental in the United States buying the territory of Louisiana.
  • Thomas Paine's Death

    Thomas Paine dies at age 72. Mme De Bonnevile, her two sons, and some New Rochelle neighbors are the only attendants at his funeral. He is buried in the grounds of his farm in New Rochelle, New York.