"Common Sense" is a pamphlet on the topic of American independence, originally written by Thomas Paine in 1775. The pamphlet covers the topics of the illogical and sinful nature of allowing a monarchy to rule, the necessary nature of government, the need for America to rebel against the chains of British tyranny and … [Read more...] about Common Sense
Thomas Paine was born January 29th, 1736 in Thetford, Norfolk, England. The son of a Quaker father and an Anglican mother, Paine attended Thetford Grammar School from the age of nine years old until he was 13 when he left to become an apprentice to his father who was a stay-maker, or a maker of the rope stays used for sailing. After briefly enlisting as a privateer, in 1759 at the age of 23, Paine became a stay-maker himself, opening a shop in Sandwich, Kent.
On September 27th of that year, he married Mary Lambert who soon died in childbirth. Paine's business also collapsed around this same time. For much of the 1760's he worked as an Excise officer before becoming a schoolteacher in London and later, Sussex. It was during his time in the pro-revolutionary town of Sussex that Paine began to become more civic minded. He began involving himself in government organizations like the Court Leet, the governing body of the town.
In March of 1771, he remarried to a woman named Elizabeth Olive. Working as an Excise officer again, Paine became involved in a group petitioning Parliament for better wages and better working conditions. At this time he wrote 'The Case of the Officers of Excise' an article outlining the situation and his involvement. It was his first published work. He distributed most of the copies himself.
However, in 1774, he was fired from his position for neglect of his job and was forced to sell his house to pay his debts. At this time, he also separated from his wife, Elizabeth and moved to London. In London, he was introduced to American revolutionary, Benjamin Franklin, who suggested that he move to America. That October, Paine emigrated to America, nearly dying in the ship voyage when an outbreak of typhoid fever hit the passengers.
Arriving on November 30th, 1774, Paine first had to recover from typhoid fever before becoming a citizen of Pennsylvania and becoming editor of Pennsylvania Magazine. Before long, Paine wrote and distributed his most famous work, the pamphlet known as "Common Sense" which touts the intelligence of America formally separating from Britain. The pamphlet was a massive success, selling over 2.5 million copies. It is still considered the widest-selling book in American history. The pamphlet energized and crystallized the pro-Revolution sentiment stirring in the American colonies.
In 1776, Paine also published a pamphlet series called 'The American Crisis' which was read aloud to soldiers under then General George Washington.
In 1777, Paine was appointed the secretary of the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs but was fired from the committee two years later after alluding to a secret negotiation with France in one of his pamphlets. Paine requested that his contribution to the revolution be rewarded and New York State eventually presented him with an estate in New Rochelle, New York.
Paine served as an aide to the general Nathanael Greene during the war.
In the late 1770's, Paine traveled to France several times to obtain more money for the revolution and was involved in the French Revolution.
During the 1780's and 90's, he released several more pamphlets, including "Rights of Man" in 1791 the result of which was that he was tried and convicted in absentia in Great Britain. For supporting the French Revolution, Paine was granted honorary French citizenship and was asked to be one of nine deputies to help draft a French constitution. He advocated against the execution of Louis XVI, because of the king's help in the American Revolution and suggested that he be instead exiled to America, but he was overruled.
Unfortunately, as an ally of the Girondins, a French political faction that quickly lost power, he was soon arrested and imprisoned. Paine narrowing survived being executed and lived to be released from prison 7 months later, largely because of the help of then American Minister to France, James Monroe. Paine remained in France until 1802 at the invitation of President Jefferson.
At the age of 72 on June 8th, 1809, Paine died. He was buried under a walnut tree on his farm in New Rochelle and left the bulk of his estate to friends.