The paper will also look at letters from other people to Paine and thirdly letters between other people who talk about Paine either personally or in a more political context. This includes letters of introduction, (a sort of “friending” perhaps) like the famous one in 1774 from Benjamin Franklin that introduced Paine to the Colonies and arguably started his carrier as a political writer. Paine’s correspondences between the American and French revolutions were concerned mostly with scientific and engineering matters like his iron bride and smokeless candle. Although he was concerned about creation of the New Constitution of the United States of America.

Paine’s correspondences are so extensive that it is unrealistic to make a comprehensive survey of all of them in a paper. Rather I have chosen to take a sampling that goes into details in certain areas and with certain individuals. In some cases there is a fair amount of research material that can be mined due to general digital availability. Another clear source for letters are the more well known and well archived individuals he kept in contact with as well as important issues. The amount of material is impressive in terms of the sheer number of people he worked with over the course of his political carrier. Through his books, pamphlets, essays and letters Paine reached millions of people up and down the social scale.

The Age of Revolution, so called, despite its currently perceived impact, is a blip the longer span of history. Paine and his work stands at the beginning of this brilliant flash of historically atypical, intense and large scale political activity, which reshaped the world. In the same vein much has been written recently that we are on the threshold of a new political age because of the power of digital social media and digital social networks as a tool for revolutionary social and political organizing usually pointing to its role in the various “colored” and “spring revolutions”. The new cyber public sphere has been placed, (rightly or wrongly) at the organizing forefront of everything from the Arab Spring and OWS to helping in famines and natural disasters. All of these and other social and political causes are being addressed though a diverse range of electronic and social media and networking. It is important to remember that social networking, or meeting the right people and getting the message out, and “Storming the Bastille” as it were -- forms of public political protest that were spontaneous, made their point and presence felt and dispersed; sort of flash mob-ish (or what ever the phrase of the day), have a history, protest itself is not new.

Letter writing and the social and other bonds they forged were a significant part of eighteenth century social cohesion and order. Paine’s first letter of introduction from Benjamin Franklin (a very good one to get) in 1774 was followed by others to various individuals assuring them of his good character. This letter was like a passkey that offered the bearer access to networks of social or economic support. In the case of Paine, an immigrant in a new world, there was possibly nothing more valuable than contacts upon arrival. With Paine we also have something of the opposite as well, unfriendly social networking, if such a thing is possible. For example, a reference to Paine made by Edmund Burke in a March 23, 1792 letter referred to a Bastille day celebration dedicated to Paine and “his second work, more infamous if possible than the first.” (Burke, Edmund. Letters of Edmund Burke A Selection. Ed. Howard Laski. London: Oxford UP, 1920. 347.) In this case Burke is likely referring to The Rights of Man Part II.

As is far as possible the paper may use some of techniques and analytics deployed to study social media, social networking as well the historical work done on letter writing in the eighteenth century. There is at least one aspect the internet and the eighteenth century postal service share; they both recently connected the world and creating new long distance networks that served to bring the people of the globe closer to each other. Paine, his work and the political actions they inspired, was well served by this emerging global system of communication aided by advances in transportation and printing. Looking at the connections Paine made over his more than three decades as a writer, revolutionary and inventor we see a man whose social sphere and circle of personal connections was unique in its diversity and depth. Following these social and political connections through his letters will help understand the formation and the dissemination of his ideas and influence.