When Common Sense was published in January 1776, it sold, by some estimates, a stunning 150,000 copies in the colonies. What exactly made this pamphlet so appealing? This is a question not only about the state of mind of Paine's audience, but also about the role of public opinion and debate, the function of the press, and the shape of political culture in the colonies. This Broadview edition of Paine's famous pamphlet attempts to reconstruct the context in which it appeared and to recapture the energy and passion of the dispute over the political future of the British colonies in North America. Included along with the text of Common Sense are some of the contemporary arguments for and against the Revolution by John Dickinson, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson; materials from the debate that followed the pamphlet's publication showing the difficulty of the choices facing the colonists; the Declaration of Independence; and the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776.
"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.