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Thomas Paine Publishes Common Sense

Thomas Paine Publishes Common Sense

Posted by This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac © 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb on 9th Jan 2019


On January 9, 1776, Thomas Paine published Common Sense, a pamphlet that set the American colonies afire with a longing for independence.

Paine was born in England to a poor family and received little schooling. For several years he drifted from job to job – corset maker, seaman, schoolteacher, customs collector, tobacco seller – without success. His prospects were few when he met Benjamin Franklin, then living in London, who suggested he go to America. Sailing across the Atlantic, Paine caught a fever and was carried ashore half dead in Philadelphia. Once recovered, letters of recommendation from Franklin helped him get a job as a magazine writer.

It has been said that Paine “had more brains than books, more sense than education, more courage than politeness, more strength than polish.” But he could work magic with pen and paper. In Common Sense he made bold arguments that Americans should demand their freedom. “The birthday of a new world is at hand,” he insisted. He attacked the idea that people must live under a king, and urged a break from Britain.

“O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth!” he wrote. “Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! [America] receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.”

Paine’s words sounded like a trumpet blast through the colonies. Thousands snatched up the pamphlet and decided that he was right. As Thomas Edison, one of America’s great geniuses, wrote 150 years later, “We never had a sounder intelligence in this Republic. . . . In Common Sense Paine flared forth with a document so powerful that the Revolution became inevitable.”