Two hundred thirty-six years ago today, at the dawning of a revolution, a pamphlet was published with an unassuming name: Common Sense. This publication’s passionate approach to American independence and straightforward appeals to the people clarified for many the goals of the revolution, paved the way for the Declaration of Independence, and made Common Sense one the the most influential pamphlets in American history.
The pamphlet was published anonymously due to its treasonous messages, signed only “Written by an Englishman.” It was the first American-produced work to directly appeal for freedom from “the royal brute of Britain”. Its success was enormous in comparison to the population of the colonies at the time, selling 500,000 copies in the first year alone.
Common Sense argued against a monarchy, shot down John Locke’s reasoning for a constitutional monarchy, and called for a union of the colonies. Paine even proposed his own ideas for the proper way to run a government with the least amount of potential for one person to have complete control over the laws of the land.
Paine’s pamphlet massively influenced the opinions of the Americans, most of whom still regarded themselves as Britons, albeit troubled and estranged. Paine’s fervent opinion that they had escaped the clutches of a tyrannical “monster” that was still chasing them changed their thinking, causing many who were still undecided about American independence to discover where their loyalties lay and join the cause for freedom. Common Sense was a major addition to the sweeping propaganda that led the American people into a life-changing revolution.
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