On Feb. 9, 1737, Thomas Paine was born in Thetford, England. Paine would come to America in 1774 and by 1776 publish “Common Sense,” urging American independence. The pamphlet sold more copies than any book save the Bible.
Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. He wrote the Rights of Man in 1791, a defense of the French Revolution. Despite not speaking French, he was elected to the French National Convention in 1792. But in December of 1793, Paine was arrested and imprisoned in Paris – then released in 1794.
Paine returned to America in 1802, after becoming notorious due to publication of The Age of Reason, his book advocating deism, reason and freethinking, against institutionalized religion and Christian doctrines. When he died in 1809, he had been ostracized for his ridicule of Christianity.