A political writer of eminence during the Revolutionary War in America. He greatly injured his reputation by his attacks on the Christian religion. He was not a Freemason, but wrote An Essay on the Origin of Freemasonry, with no other knowledge of the Institution than that derived from the writings of Smith and Dodd, and the very questionable authority of Prichard's Masonry Dissected. He sought to trace Freemasonry to the Celtic Druids. For one so little acquainted with his subject, he has treated it with considerable ingenuity. Paine was born in England in 1737, and died in New York, in 1809. Paine's acquaintance with prominent Freemasons on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean has doubtless had much to do with the claim often made for his membership in the Craft.
A meeting with Brother Franklin in London obtained for him introductions to the leaders in the Colonies and he sailed there in 1774 where he became editor of the Pennsylvania Gazette. He published, 1776, Common Sense, an argument for a republic. Then he served on the staff of General Greene and wrote pamphlets entitled the Crisis, his opening words, "These are the times that try men's souls" sounding powerfully then and later in days of turmoil.
In England after the war he was indicted for treason, escaping to France, and there narrowly escaped the guillotine, spending ten months in prison. Then he attacked Washington bitterly, came to the United States, but while his services to the country were gratefully remembered, his blunt discourtesy to the President and other old friends could not be forgotten. He was buried at New Rochelle, hut in 1819 William Cobbett took his body to England. Moncure D. Conway wrote a biography of him which says that the preface to his essay on Freemasonry was probably written by his devoted friend, Colonel John Fellows.
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