Thomas Paine, a native of Thetford, England, arrived in America’s colonies with little in the way of money, reputation, or prospects, though he did have a letter of recommendation in his pocket from Benjamin Franklin. Paine also had a passion for liberty in all its forms, and an abiding hatred of tyranny. His forceful, direct expression of those principles found voice in a pamphlet he wrote entitled Common Sense, which proved to be the most influential political work of the time. Ultimately, Paine’s treatise provided inspiration to the second Continental Congress for the drafting of the Declaration of Independence. 46 Pages is a dramatic look at a pivotal moment in our country’s formation, a scholar’s meticulous recreation of the turbulent years leading up to the Revolutionary War, retold with excitement and new insight.
Book Review: ★★★★★★
This is a book I purchased some time ago, and never quite found the time to get around to reading. I finally returned to it following some class discussions regarding early American literature — and I was looking for some reference material for a paper I needed to write. As I started my research, I was looking for specific things — but what I was reading kept capturing my attention until I finally returned to the beginning of the book and started from the first. I am so glad I did! Thomas Paine is one of those characters from history that lived a life that just seemed designed for immortalization in book form. And for those that are not fond readers of history — this is one book you might want to consider making an exception for.
The book follows the ups and downs of Paine’s life — and the struggles he faced in both England, as well as here in America. A personal friend of Benjamin Franklin, Paine entered this country on Franklin’s personal introduction and recommendation — primarily for his writing abilities. And while Paine was a talented writer, this book explores the fact that the one thing he was more talented at than writing was being able to read the time and situation in which he was living. Paine knew how to tap into the emotional undercurrents of the nascent nation. Much of his writing took place in coffee houses, and gathering spots of the general public. It was from this background that Paine seemed to absorb more than just the arguments raging in this troubled time. He also absorbed the emotional quagmire that was developing.
Liell’s book explores Paine’s unique ability to be able to channel all of these elements into a simple pamphlet that would ultimately change the destiny of this country, and in time help define a nation. Paine’s reputation for the voice of the Revolution is more than just speculation; Liell presents the troubling aspects of this Paine’s personality, and how those aspects all gave birth to a raging desire that would spur on the Revolutionary elements of the American colonies.
Liell is particularly gifted at making Paine live again — with both his vices and virtues all emerging to form an interesting picture of a very complex man. Paine felt deeply, lived vibrantly, and he committed fully to everything he believed in. And his gift with words allowed him to form simple, direct, and easy to understand arguments for those beliefs. But his ability to simply write those beliefs was only half the battle. His voice resonated powerfully with the early Americans. He was able to move them from simply seeking a relief from an existing government, to conceiving of the possibility of breaking away from that government and completely forming an independent nation. He was more than talented, and this all comes through Liell’s writing powerfully and in living detail and color.
The is a great source for those just beginning to study American history. It isn’t very long, and it is written about one of the more engaging and fascinating personalities of the American Revolutionary time period. But it also gives the reader a feel for the underlying troubles haunting the young American nation during this time frame. Certainly a must read for those that love American history.
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