Tom Paine: America's Godfather, 1737-1809

By W. E. Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER II
A Life Without Motive

I

AT THE age of twenty-eight Thomas Paine found himself out of a job and out of money. His wages had always been small, and he had not saved a farthing. In his mind there was no vision of his own future; he never dreamed that he would become, during his lifetime, a world-famous figure; or that he would write books which would inspire millions of readers. He was at that period of his life a drifter without plan or purpose.

It was not long before he had a job in the shop of a Mr. Gudgeon, a staymaker in the tiny town of Diss, in the county of Norfolk. We do not know how much he received in wages, but if he was paid at the customary rate he earned eight shillings sixpence a week, or thereabouts, equivalent to two dollars and twelve cents in our money. These wages were considered fairly good for a workingman in the 1760's, when a shilling would purchase as much as a dollar in our time.

He did not remain long in Mr. Gudgeon's employment, for early in 1766 he was living in London and teaching English-- which meant English grammar and composition--in the academy of a Mr. Noble, who is as dim in outline as the staymaker Gudgeon. As a teacher Paine was paid nine and a half shillings a week, or twenty-five pounds a year. The surprising thing about this school job is that Mr. Noble ever thought of employing a staymaker to teach English. Workingmen were not expected to possess scholarly knowledge of any kind, and a great many of them could not read. The common people, such as craftsmen, farm hands and laborers were purposely kept at a low educational level by the ruling classes that governed the country. These lords and masters could not understand why a man who is destined by the social order and his surrounding circumstances to lay bricks or plow the soil all his life should

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Tom Paine: America's Godfather, 1737-1809
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 5
  • Contents 7
  • Illustrations 9
  • Chapter I - The Little Quaker Boy 13
  • Chapter II - A Life Without Motive 33
  • Chapter III - Paine Comes to America 50
  • Chapter IV - Paine Writes a Best Seller 66
  • Chapter V - A Restless Intellectual 85
  • Chapter VI - The Silas Deane Controversy 97
  • Chapter VII - The Revolution's Financial Crisis 118
  • Chapter VIII - Paine as a Propagandist 133
  • Chapter IX - Iron Bridges and Tallow Candles 152
  • Chapter X - The Rights of Man 173
  • Chapter XI - More Books--More Trouble 199
  • Chapter XII - Outlawed in England 222
  • Chapter XIII - The Age of Reason 251
  • Chapter XIV - Monroe Rescues Paine 275
  • Chapter XV - The Last Sad Years 304
  • Bibliography 342
  • Index 345
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