Of all of those who played a role in the American Revolution, Thomas Paine is probably the least well known, yet the most quoted.  He is arguably one of the most praised, and definitely the most maligned. Some see him as a forgotten hero, while others mark his birthday with a yearly celebration.  He had loyal, steadfast friends, among them President Thomas Jefferson, but yet more virulent enemies who constantly attacked and maligned him.  He was beaten in the streets of Philadelphia and burned in effigy in his native country, England.  Yet one of his former enemies, turned arduous supporter, dug up his bones to bring them back to a place of honor there.  Predictably, they got lost on the way, and have never been found.

In this two-hour documentary we will explore the life of Thomas Paine, the son of a Quaker staymaker born in Thetford, England in 1737.  More than half of his life, a catalog of failure, was behind him when he arrived in Philadelphia in 1774 at the age of 37. He was to stir the continent to revolution with his pamphlet, Common Sense, and keep funds coming and spirits up with his American Crisis papers.  He took part in the French Revolution and his writings fueled demands for equity in Britain and a failed revolution in Ireland. Yet he died, alone, almost friendless, with one mourner and her son at his grave to represent the United States and France.  It was the end of a life that had encompassed many brushes with death, heights of adulation and admiration, and depths of despair and destitution.

As we look chronologically at his life, we learn about the founding of the United States of America, about the forces that shaped its government, and about its relationship to the world.  Off Ramp's work on this production is supported by a top team of academic advisers including noted historian Eric Foner, Paine biographer Jack Fruchtman, Jr., and Harvey Kaye, author of the new book Thomas Paine: Firebrand of the Revolution, which looks at how Paine's revolutionary spirit runs throughout American history. Off Ramp is also being advised by Middlemarch Films, producer of the critically acclaimed PBS documentary on Benjamin Franklin.

 

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