Copyright 2007 New Jersey Newspaper Foundation.
All Rights Reserved.
for a PDF version of Chapter 3
Chapter 3 - Who Was
John Aitken's question to
his son at dinner that night didn't go away.
The next night at dinner
Frederich's father asked him what he had heard
about the anonymous author of Common Sense.
Frederich was still
uncertain. However, he had ideas from his
research and his listening.
The next morning at his
father's bookshop, Frederich waited and finally
saw Thomas Paine coming to work on Aitken's Pennsylvania
"Mr. Paine, sir. May
I ask you a question?"
"Of course. What is
it, Frederich?," Paine replied.
"Sir, you know the
best writers in Philadelphia. Just who is this
Mr. Anonymous who wrote Common Sense?
Thomas Paine was quiet
for a minute, but then he said, "Let me ask
Mr. Aitken if we can speak together in a little
while. I do not want to take you away from your
chores. Then we can talk."
Frederich thought Paine
would forget, or that he wouldn't have time to
talk with a young boy like him. But he was
Thomas Paine came looking
for him when the chores were done. Alone, in the
back of the bookshop, the two sat down late that
Paine began to tell
Frederich a story about a boy who grew up in
England and saw how English royalty treated other
"The little boy
watched how people, even children, were punished
by public hanging each spring when they were
found guilty of taking food that did not belong
to them, or for owing money, or for not working
well enough to please their masters," Paine
"The boy's father
was a Quaker and did not believe in executing
people," Paine continued. "The little
boy learned many of his father's peaceful Quaker
What Thomas Paine was
talking about was the Quaker religion.
To be a Quaker in England
was to be an outsider because the main religion
in England was Anglican, a protestant faith.
Because Quakers were
different in the conduct of their lives, they
were jailed, fined and finally "helped"
to leave England.
Quaker ways meant that
none of them would bow to anyone. Not one of them
would take a hat off in the presence of royalty.
Those behaviors often
meant a jail sentence in England.
In America, many Quakers
settled in the western part of southern New
Jersey and founded Pennsylvania, named for the
Quaker family led by William Penn.
They built their
meetinghouses, many of which still stand today
where Quakers still practice their
religion.Today, they also are called the Society
of Friends, or simply Friends.
Their most well-known
belief is against war ... against violence,
beating, and execution.
Arguments become settled
by talking it through and out among themselves,
not through laws.
dressing fancy, speaking ill of one's neighbors
and family, having slaves, being tardy, stealing,
lying, etc., were not accepted.
The Circle of Friends
made their own rules of conduct and expected all
in the Circle to abide by the rules. If someone
broke a rule it was reported to the Circle. A
committee would be appointed to help the person
correct that misbehavior.
In the 1700s and 1800s
when towns had no police, no hospitals, no
schools and other services we have today, the
Quaker way held their communities together in
"These early lessons
made the boy very sensitive to ordinary people's
problems and he wanted to help them," Paine
Frederich sat on the edge
of his stool, leaned forward and almost tipped it
over when Paine described how the boy of the
story ran away to sea to get away from the
everyday horrors he was witnessing. Frederich
could only imagine what that would be like.
The light of day was
fading that late afternoon in January and
Frederich was beginning to feel hungry. So was
Thomas Paine, who was still deep into his story
about the English boy who ran away to sea.
Paine told Frederich how
the boy boarded a ship and sailed away for two
years, even after his father snatched him off the
ship the first time he tried to run away from
The boy made such a good
wage that when he returned home, now as a young
man, he started his own business. "But the
young man was not good at doing that. He needed
to do something else." Paine explained.
"I have to leave
now," Paine said. "I'll continue my
Each day, after his own
chores were done, Frederich walked to the docks
on the Delaware River that flowed by the city of
He saw the sailors and
listened to their songs as they worked.
He sometimes watched the
ships leave after they had unloaded their goods,
and he wondered what it must be like to tend
those sails and work those boats the whole way
across the sea to other ports far away.
Sometimes those sailors
almost looked to be his age, yet he knew he could
never run away from the print shop to do that.
That would take courage
... courage that motivated the English man Thomas
Return to the Table of Contents