Thomas Paine is one of the least respected figures of the American Revolution and early American history. Many of Paineâ€™s compatriots believed that his anti-religious ideas found in The Age of Reason were so dangerous that they would undermine the moral character of America (Keane 475). Paine further caught the ire of the American public with his open letter to President George Washington in which Paine called Washington â€œa cold blooded traitorâ€ (Keane 429-33). Upon Paineâ€™s death, The New York Citizen had eulogized: â€œHe had lived long, did some good and much harm.â€ Criticism for Paine and his works continued long after his death. Theodore Roosevelt once referred to Thomas Paine as a â€œfilthy little atheistâ€ (Stade 382). There has never been a shortage of criticism of Paine or his work whether in his own time or since. Certainly, some of the criticism is warranted, but the notion that Paine â€œdid some good and much harmâ€ is hardly fair for a man who sacrificed his wealth, risked his life, and inspired countless others in the cause of Americaâ€™s independence from England.
When Thomas Paine arrived for the first time in America on November 30, 1774, no one could have predicted the enormous influence he and his writings would have on citizens of every class. Paine was not well known at this time, but Benjamin Franklinâ€™s letter of introduction to Philadelphiaâ€™s movers and shakers would soon change that. As Paine became comfortable with his new surroundings, he spent many hours in book stores and conversing with others about his literary interests. One day, Paine was in one of his favorite stores visiting with the storeâ€™s owner, Robert Aitken. Aitken was so impressed with Paine that he offered Paine a job as the editor of the upstart periodical Pennsylvania Magazine (Kaye 49-50).
Rather than writing directly about controversial issues, Paine used allegory and the increasingly popular medium of the fable to express his ideas. The fables opened up the world of politics to the general public; something which was not done in literature prior to Paineâ€™s writing and editorship of Pennsylvania Magazine. Paineâ€™s impact on the magazine was immediate. Circulation of the fledgling magazine more than doubled in the first month of Aitkenâ€™s hiring of Paine as contributing editor. The magazine would sell more copies than any other magazine up to that time (Larkin 261).
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