Common Sense: The Origin and Design of Government

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Coventry House Publishing, Jan 30, 2016 - Equality - 88 pages

Common Sense is the timeless classic that inspired the Thirteen Colonies to fight for and declare their independence from Great Britain in the summer of 1776. Written by famed political theorist Thomas Paine, this pamphlet boldly challenged the authority of the British government and the royal monarchy to rule over the American colonists.

By using plain language and a reasoned style, Paine chose to forego the philosophical and Latin references made popular by the Enlightenment era writers. As a result, Paine united average citizens and political leaders behind the central idea of independence and transformed the tenor of the colonists' argument against the British. As the best-selling American title of all time, Common Sense has been eloquently described by historian Gordon S. Wood as "the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era."

Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was an English-American political activist, philosopher, and revolutionary. As one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, he authored the most influential pamphlets at the start of the American Revolution and inspired the colonists to declare independence from Great Britain in 1776. His ideas reflected Enlightenment-era rhetoric of transnational human rights and the separation of church and state. He has been called a corset-maker by trade, a journalist by profession, and a propagandist by inclination.

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About the author (2016)

Born to parents with Quaker leanings, Thomas Paine grew up amid modest circumstances in the rural environs of Thetford, England. As the recipient of what he termed "a good moral education and a tolerable stock of useful learning," little in Paine's early years seemed to suggest that he would one day rise to a stunning defense of American independence in such passionate and compelling works as Common Sense (1776) and The American Crisis essays (1776-83). Paine's early years were characterized by a constant struggle to remain financially solvent while pursuing a number of nonintellectual activities. Nevertheless, the young Paine read such Enlightenment theorists as Isaac Newton and John Locke and remained dedicated to the idea that education was a lifelong commitment. From 1753 to 1759, Paine worked alternately as a sailor, a staymaker, and a customs officer. Between 1759 and 1772, he married twice. His first wife died within a year of their marriage, and Paine separated amicably from his second wife after a shop they operated together went bankrupt. While these circumstances seemed gloomy, Paine fortuitously made the acquaintance of Benjamin Franklin in London in 1773. Impressed by Paine's self-education, Franklin encouraged the young man to venture to America where he might prosper. Arriving in Philadelphia in 1774, Paine quickly found himself energized by the volatile nature of Revolutionary politics. Working as an editor of Pennsylvania Magazine, Paine found a forum for his passionate radical views. In the years that followed, Paine became increasingly committed to American independence, and to his conviction that the elitist and corrupt government that had ruled over him in England had little business extending its corrosive colonial power to the States. Moved by these beliefs, Paine published Common Sense (1776), a test that proved invaluable in unifying American sentiment against British rule. Later, after joining the fray as a soldier, Paine penned the familiar lines in "The American Crisis": "These are the times that try men's souls." Fifteen years later, Paine wrote his other famous work, Rights of Man (1791). Drawing on his eclectic experiences as a laborer, an international radical politician, and a revolutionary soldier, Paine asserted his Lockeian belief that since God created humans in "one degree only," then rights should be equal for every individual.

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