Sunday, January 10, 2010
By the time he was 38, Thomas Paine had been a tax collector, a schoolteacher, tobacconist, journalist, grocer, a failed inventor, an impoverished immigrant and a multiple bankrupt. On this day in 1776 he became a bestselling author. The book wasn't even a book, really; it was a pamphlet titled Common Sense. But it sold a half million copies, and it persuaded a sufficient number of Americans toward independence that independence was declared that summer. Paine also came up with the name for the new country. No mean accomplishment for someone who began his working life at age 13 making women's underwear. Later in 1776 he published another pamphlet, titled The Crisis, which Washington had read out to the troops at Valley Forge. It begins with the words, "These are the times that try men's souls." Thomas Paine appears three times in A Book of Ages.