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.