The Anglo-American writer and political theorist Thomas Paine (1737-1809) boldly spoke out for social and political reforms, and played an active role in the American War of Independence. His great and highly influential pamphlet, Common Sense, published in January 1776, was the first bold, explicit assault on monarchical rule, and the first advocacy of the American colonies' independence from Britain.
Written in clear language, Common Sense laid out how an independent government could be established and controlled by the people, and how rich and poor alike could share equally in privileges and duties. It was Paine's enlightened contention that in order to ensure liberty, no special preferments should be attached to any one religious sect, but that religious diversity should be respected.
"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.