(National Portrait Gallery Association)
Born into an English family of modest means, Paine received minimal formal education before immigrating to Philadelphia in 1775. While there, Paine published one of the most influential pamphlets of American history – Common Sense. The monograph attacked George III while simultaneously championing republican ideals. Paine’s Common Sense was so popular among patriotic American colonials that over 100,000 copies were sold in the first three months of publication in 1776. Common Sense served as a touchstone for the common American colonials by sparking debate regarding whether independence was an attainable goal. During the ensuing war, Paine served as volunteer personal assistant to General Nathanael Greene, traveling with the Continental Army. While not a natural soldier, Paine contributed to the patriot cause by inspiring the troops with his 16 "Crisis" papers, which appeared between 1776 and 1783.