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Chapter 4 - The Secret
While Frederich liked
Thomas Paine's story about the young English boy
turning into a man, he wasn't really sure where
it was leading.
What did Paine's story
have to do with Mr. Anonymous of Common Sense?
The next afternoon, after
Frederich finished his chores, he and Paine sat
down. The story continued.
"When the young man
married, his first wife died within a year,"
Paine continued. "Very sad, but still
ambitious, he tried other work as a tax
That work sent him to
Lewes, England, where his serious talk about tax
collecting problems convinced the other tax
collectors they should ask him to write a
petition to Parliament to change their poor and
unsafe working conditions.
"In his petition the
man asked for more salary, fewer hours, and other
things," Paine continued. "He was
actually surprised that he could write so well,
that if he had things to say, and that he knew
how to put his thoughts in order ... an order
that other people could understand."
Paine explained that the
man carried the petition from Lewes to Parliament
in London. Parliament was where the House of
Lords and the House of Commons considered changes
in English laws.
While he waited there for
an answer, Paine continued, the man met a very
famous person from America. His name was Benjamin
Franklin. "Our Dr. Benjamin Franklin ...
from Philadelphia?" asked Frederich.
so," Paine responded.
"And what did Dr.
Franklin say to him?" asked Frederich.
"Dr. Franklin told
the tax collector he should go to
Philadelphia," Paine said.
With that comment,
Frederich's sister, Anna, opened the front door
of the bookshop.
"Ah, Anna comes with
some food," said Frederich, his stomach
growling as he walked to the front of the shop to
see his sister.
He peeked at her covered
dish and saw a pamphlet under it.
"Underneath the ham is Common Sense?"
asked Frederich, who then stifled his laugh.
"What are you
laughing at?" Anna asked, with one hand on
"You, a little girl,
reading that," Frederich replied, pointing
at the young girl.
"I am not so little.
I am 10 years old. And Papa is teaching me Latin.
So there," Anna said sternly. "Now I
have some ham for Mr. Paine so I will find
When she found Paine in
the back of the bookstore, she offered him food
AND a question of her own. "Mr. Paine, do
you know who has written this and why he wrote
it?" Anna pointed to Common Sense.
"Is that of
importance?" asked Paine.
"Yes. Because I want
to know about him," she said.
"I think the writer
wanted people in America to believe that they
were ready to grow up and away from
England," Paine said.
Anna asked, "How did
he know that?"
"The writer had
lived in England for many years and knew about
the problems America had with England,"
Paine said. "He wrote that America had
learned a lot during those years it was a colony
to England," Paine replied as he cut into
his ham. "And then there were always those
wars that England waged, and each time they
drafted Americans to fight in their wars."
"That was not very
fair. I heard father talking about how it cost
much money," said Anna.
"Yes, and the
Americans did not want to pay for those English
wars. You have learned your lessons well,
Anna," Paine said.
"Thank you, Mr.
Paine," said Anna as she danced herself
around the room. "I think I know who wrote Common
Sense." Frederich looked at his sister
She stopped and pointed
straight at Thomas Paine's large nose. "It
is you," she said.
Thomas Paine smiled as he
ate his last piece of ham, leaned back in his
chair and patted his satisfied stomach. Frederich
could not believe his sister got to say it before
* * *
Yes, Thomas Paine was the
man who wrote that small pamphlet ... Common
Sense ... that would eventually be printed
in other languages and countries so that more
than 500,000 copies would be made. Yet this was
the first time he had really succeeded at any
He was 39 years old. He
had tried a business and failed. He had run away
to sea. He had been a tax collector, but briefly.
Yet when he took up the
pen to write about ordinary people being
mistreated by the law and the English government,
Some of his success came
from his ability to debate, a skill he learned as
part of the Headstrong Club, a Lewes, England,
debating club that met every month.
It was well known that
hardly anybody could win an argument against
But now, at a time when
the new land of the colonies was seething with
unrest about taxes and lack of control over their
own affairs, the skills this man had-writing and
debating-would become crucial.
Thomas Paine would be
there when the word "independence"
would be first whispered.
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