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This Day In History: Thomas Paine Published “Common Sense”

January 09, 2017

This day in history, propagandist Thomas Paine anonymously published “Common Sense,” a scathing attack on King George III’s reign over the colonies and a call for complete independence.

It sold more than 500,000 copies in just a few months, greatly affecting public sentiment and the deliberations of the Continental Congress leading up to the Declaration of Independence. Credited with uniting average citizens and political leaders behind the idea of independence, “Common Sense” played a major role in transforming a colonial squabble into the American Revolution.

An instant bestseller in both the colonies and Britain, Paine boldly stated that King George III was a tyrant and that Americans should shed any sentimental attachment to the monarchy. He advocated an immediate declaration of independence from Britain.

America, he argued, had a moral obligation to reject monarchy.

“O! ye that love mankind! Ye that dare opposed not only the tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the Old World is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted around the globe….O! receive the fugitive and prepare in time an asylum for mankind,” he urged.

Within a few years, a land with a population of 2.5 million had bought 500,000 copies of Paine’s stirring call for independence.