Grade levels 

Thomas Paine Biography for Kids


This Page Describes the life of Thomas Paine and the Publication of Common Sense


Home >> United States History >> American Revolution >> Causes and Effects >> Common Sense


American Revolution

Causes and Effects
American Revolution Interactive
People of the Revolution
Printable Activities
Online Activities
Battles List
Clip Art
Who is Your Founding Father?
Revolutionary Flags
Make Your Own Map!


Proclamation of 1763
Stamp Act
Townshend Act
Boston Massacre
Boston Tea Party/Intolerable Acts
First Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
Common Sense


Declaration of Independence
Treaty of Paris
Articles of Confederation
Constitutional Convention
Federalist Papers
Bill of Rights
Federalists vs Republicans
French Revolution
Jay Treaty
Citizen Genet
Newspaper Wars
John Adams’ Presidency and the XYZ Affair

Major American Wars

French and Indian War
Revolutionary War
War of 1812
Mexican-American War
Civil War
Common Sense

Common Sense


Common Sense Activities on

Common Sense Reading Comprehension Online – This is an online reading comprehension exercise with ten questions. Students get immediate feedback. Appropriate for grades 5-9.
Common Sense Printable Reading Comprehension – This is a two-page printable reading comprehension exercise. The first page contains the text and the second page contains the multiple choice questions. Appropriate for grades 5-9.
Summer Soldier and Sunshine Patriot: Interesting activity where students draw illustrations of the figurative and literal meaning behind Thomas Paine’s characterizations in The Crisis.
Revolutionary Era Timeline Decoding: Fun activity where students have to decode a message by determining the dates and times of when important events of the American Revolution occur.

Thomas Paine and Common Sense


Thomas Paine was born in England in 1737. He was the son of uneducated English farmers. In his early years, he served as an apprentice in his father’s corset making business, but eventually served as a merchant seaman before starting his own corset business. In 1759, Paine married Mary Lambert, who would soon die during childbirth.

After the death of his wife, Paine moved around England and took several different jobs such as a servant, tax collector, and teacher. In 1771, Paine married Elizabeth Ollive, his landlord’s daughter. It was during this time, while living in Lewes, East Sussex, that he became involved in local politics. In 1772, he published his first political work, known as The Case of the Officers of Excise, which championed better pay and working conditions for tax collectors. That same year, Paine met Benjamin Franklin, who encouraged him to move to America and wrote him a recommendation to do so. Paine arrived in Philadelphia on November 30, 1774, just days after obtaining a legal separation from his second wife. Upon his arrival in America, he was near death from Typhoid, which had claimed the lives of five other passengers on the ship.

Although it took six weeks for Paine to recover from the trip to America, he quickly made his mark on American politics and sentiments. On January 10, 1776, he anonymously published Common Sense, a pro-independence pamphlet that would galvanize the colonists against the British and that would greatly influence the expediency of the Declaration of Independence. Paine’s pamphlet quickly spread through the colony’s literate population and became the international voice of the pro-independence colonies. Common Sense would quickly become the top selling publication of the 18th century. That same year, he penned The Crisis, which greatly helped to inspire the Continental Army. Below is a famous quote from The Crisis:

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

During and after the Revolution, Paine worked in France on French-American foreign affairs. It was during this time that he began to advocate the French Revolution. On January 29, 1791, he published The Rights of Man, a pamphlet encouraging the French Revolution and criticizing European monarchies. At first, he was seen as a great asset to the revolutionaries of France and was appointed to the French Convention and was named an honorary French citizen. However, as powers shifted in revolutionary France, Paine quickly became unpopular, was arrested, and scheduled to be executed (though he escaped execution by chance). During his incarceration, Paine penned The Age of Reason, a pamphlet that condemned organized religion. This pamphlet ultimately alienated many of his former supporters and resulted in his virtual ostracism from politics upon his return to America. Paine died in New York City in 1809. According to record, only six people came to his funeral.