Introduction & Overview of Common Sense by Thomas Paine

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Common Sense Summary & Study Guide Description

Common Sense Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Critical Essay #1 on Common Sense by Thomas Paine.

Thomas Paine's Common Sense (1776) may have been the first American bestseller, rousing the colonial spirit for American independence throughout the early Revolutionary War. Certainly Paine did not originate the argument for independence, but his timing of articulating it could not have been better. His pamphlet was first published, anonymously, in January 1776, after hostilities between the colonies and Great Britain had already begun. The pamphlet gained immediate popularity, with up to 150,000 copies circulated in its first year, and it underwent numerous reprintings. People passed copies to friends and family members in addition to reading them out loud to those who could not read themselves. With British laws becoming more restrictive by the day and with colonial trade showing great potential, the small collection of states was ready to throw off its parent country and make its own governing decisions. Paine's ideas helped illustrate how life could be in an independent land, and why a republican government suited the new colonies much better than a hereditary monarchy.

Thomas Paine only lived in America for a relatively short time, but his impact on the emergence of the United States is incalculable. Born in England, Paine did not arrive in the then British colonies until his late thirties and after trying his hand at several different occupations. Frustrated with his career opportunities, Paine traveled to the colonies with little more than an introduction from Benjamin Franklin. But quickly, Paine set his rhetorical abilities to work for the colonial cause against the British government. He began by writing for a magazine in Pennsylvania, but, at the urging of some of the founding fathers, he began publishing political pamphlets. After Paine's writings became widely circulated throughout the colonies, citizens who were formerly interested in reconciling with the throne became emboldened to declare their independence. Paine's powerful arguments not only convinced colonials that they should separate from Britain but, more importantly, the style of his arguments reached a mass of people. Paine was undeniably intelligent and astute, but his true genius rested in his ability to communicate ideas to regular people.

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