January 10, 1776 – Common Sense by Thomas Paine is Published Anonymously in the American Colonies

Common Sense was a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine, a skilled artisan born in 1737 who had emigrated from England to Philadelphia in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin. Paine began writing the tract in late 1775 under the working title of Plain Truth. With Benjamin Rush, who helped him edit and publish it and suggested changing the title, Paine developed his ideas into a forty-eight page pamphlet. He published it anonymously because of its treasonable content.


In Jefferson and Hamilton: The Rivalry That Forged a Nation, historian John Ferling opines that Paine demystified government for the citizenry, who had been taught that it was so complex it must be left to the educated and social elite. In addition, Ferling avers, Paine demythologized monarchical rule, arguing that it elevated incompetents and rogues to the throne, where they then spent their time making war and giving titles to sycophants. Ferling writes:

For many colonists – perhaps for most – Paine drove a spike through the heart of the yearning for reconciliation.”

The historian Gordon Wood, in The American Revolution: A History, called Common Sense “the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era.” You can read it online here.

Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine


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