“In Common Sense a writer found his moment to change the world,” Alan Taylor writes in his introduction. When Paine’s attack on the British mixed constitution of kings, lords, and commons was published in January 1776, fighting had already erupted between British troops and American Patriots, but many Patriots still balked at seeking independence. “By discrediting the sovereign king,” Taylor argues, “Paine made independence thinkable—as he relocated sovereignty from a royal family to the collective people of a republic.” Paine’s American readers could conclude that they stood at “the center of a new and coming world of utopian potential.” The John Harvard Library edition follows the text of the expanded edition printed by the shop of Benjamin Towne for W. and T. Bradford of Philadelphia.
"These are the times that try men's souls," begins Thomas Paine's first Crisis paper, the impassioned pamphlet that helped ignite the American Revolution. Published in Philadelphia in January of 1776, Common Sense sold 150,000 copies almost immediately. A powerful piece of propaganda, it attacked the idea of a hereditary monarchy, dismissed the chance for reconciliation with England, and outlined the economic benefits of independence while espousing equality of rights among citizens. Paine fanned a flame that was already burning, but many historians argue that his work unified dissenting voices and persuaded patriots that the American Revolution was not only necessary, but an epochal step in world history.