Cambridge Texts in the History of Political Thought
Thomas Paine, edited by Bruce Kuklick
Cambridge University Press
1989, 2Rev Ed 2000
Tom Paine was arguably the most important thinker in the English radical tradition and a significant figure in both the French and American revolutions. He transformed the art of political writing with a lucid plain style designed to appeal to the common people rather than the classically educated elite.
This useful anthology includes a number of his most important writings:
Common Sense (1776) - tract containing the first open call for the Thirteen Colonies of America to throw off their allegiance to Britain. At one time there was one copy in circulation for every five people on America.
The Crisis Number I (1776) - Famous pamphlet written while Paine accompanied George Washington's army in its retreat across New Jersey. Washington had it read to his men before crossing the Delaware. Its power is exemplified by the famous opening lines:
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 his country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
Rights of Man, Part I (1791) - Classic statement of democratic ideas, written in defence of the French Revolution and in opposition to Edmund Burke's conservative Reflections on the Revolution in France.
Rights of Man, Part II (1792) - Includes one of the earliest proposals for a welfare state.
The Age of Reason, Part I (1794) - A deist critique of the Bible, Christianity and organised religion in general.
Agrarian Justice (1797) - A more detailed exposition of Paine's social welfare proposals.