Born in Norfolk, England, Thomas Paine (1737–1809) immigrated to the American colonies in 1774 at the suggestion of Benjamin Franklin. Soon thereafter he became a citizen of Pennsylvania and a staunch supporter of the American cause for independence. In early 1776, he published a best-selling, 48-page monograph entitled Common Sense that defended the American Revolution. Later that year, after the colonies had officially declared their independence, Paine penned a pamphlet series, The American Crisis, to rally support and morale for the American cause. After the war, he returned to England and became one of the first British supporters of the French Revolution, advocating for republican forms of government in his Rights of Man (1792). After moving to France and participating in its Constitution Committee, he was imprisoned during the Reign of Terror. He returned to the United States in 1802.
Author: Thomas Paine
In this ballad, written in 1775, Thomas Paine memorializes a famous 130-year-old elm tree that stood near Boston Common, under whose canopy defiant colonists rallied to discuss and demonstrate their discontent, and which was cut down by the British that same year.
In retrospect, especially looking from the perspective of today, 230 years after the end of the War of Independence, it is easy to forget how uncertain was the revolutionary cause, how perilous the risk of failure, and, especially, how divided were the colonists on the rightness of the revolt and the wisdom of joining what seemed at first to be the losing side. Allow, therefore, the fiery words of Thomas Paine (1737–1809) to recreate for you the situation that faced Washington and the revolution as the campaign moved, in late 1776, into the mid-Atlantic states of Pennsylvania and New Jersey.