Thomas Paine was a radical socialist thinker and is considered to be one of the forefathers of the United States. He lived and worked as excise officer in Alford but only for just over a year. However, his role in the formation of the United States of America is so important that Alford takes pride in its association with him.
In the 18th Century, Alford was a centre for smuggling. This consisted of the illegal export of wool from the Lincolnshire coast and the import of contraband, particularly alcohol and tea.
Paine began as an Exciseman in Grantham but Alford was his first responsible position. He started in August 1764. His office was in the Windmill Hotel in what is now the bridal suite (today Room 105). It overlooks the main Market Place in Alford. The inn was also and important trading and commercial venue in the town. It's position made in idea for conducting business.
The Excise laws of the day were very strict. Many people felt that the restrictions were grossly unfair so many ordinary people were involved. It was there were many fights and consequently, casualties on both sides. Most smuggling as carried out at night.
The period here was fairly peaceful when Thomas Paine served in Alford. He to discourage smuggling rather than to punished it. He as dismissed for passing some goods on their documentation, rather inspecting it himself. This was a common enough where the trader concerned had a good name, but it gave some jealous colleague may have shopped him. It was a number of years before Paine was reinstated. He eventually served again at Lewes in Sussex.
In 1774, Paine emigrated to America. At this time the people there were preparing for Independence, which was formally declared in, 1776 July 04.
Paine became an influential writer. He became famous for his pamphlet, "Common Sense", and is credited for coined the name 'United States of America'. He was a good friends with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington.
For several years, Paine was the Secretary to the Department for Foreign Affairs, and later, Clerk to the Assembly of Pennsylvania. However, Paine soon fell out with his American friends and subsequently did on hold anymore positions of authority in the United States.
He left America to go to France at the time of the Revolution. At about this time he wrote his two greatest books "The Rights of Man" and "The Age of Reason", which continue to be published today. After ten years in France, Paine returned to America. He died in obscurity in New York, in 1809 on June 08. His remains were being brought back to the UK in 1819 for burial but unfortunately, they were washed overboard. In a sense, he was finally, laid to rest in between the countries where he did so much revolutionary work.
The Thomas Paine National Historical Association website records his history and work.