Thomas Paine, More Than Common Sense

1998 words - 8 pages

Thomas Paine is undoubtedly one of the most prolific founding fathers of the United States, albeit not in the manner most would expect from a founding father. Paine was not a drafter of the constitution, nor was he an early member of Congress or President of the United States. However, Paine did have a profound impact on society, not only in America, but also abroad. Often remembered for helping spur the American Revolution, yet not as often remembered for the other revolution in France. Two of the more famous writings from Paine are, of course, Common Sense and The Rights of Man, both of which were written during revolutionary times in separate countries. It goes without saying that when a revolution is taking place there will be many on both sides of the war; in both of these instances, Paine was the voice of the people and stood up for what was right regardless of the consequences. I posit Thomas Paine was the most influential man for revolution in America and France despite fear of backlash or imprisonment. In fact, near the end of his life Paine was not only imprisoned, but somehow evaded being beheaded as well. Thomas Paine was even more influential as a result of his extreme lack of self-interest and ability to stay true to the cause of his writings rather than wither away in fear.
Conservative estimates place the sales of Common Sense around 300,000 while more robust estimates claim upwards of 500,000 copies being bought recently after being printed. This large readership was probably a combination of many variables. However, Paine had a way of speaking to the masses, quite possibly due to his humble upbringings, that surely increased sales. Paine was born in Thetford to a corset maker and took up the job as well before he settled into being an excise officer. After a move and indebtedness he was en route to America in 1774 with a letter from Benjamin Franklin to introduce him. As a result of this relationship with Franklin, Paine was given a job as “the editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine” where he took a foray into “radical journalism.”
Coming to America in 1774 right before the American Revolution and starting into radical journalism assuredly set the stage for Paine. However, Paine could not have known the attention Common Sense would garner among Americans. Especially considering the political climate of the time; in 1775 Congress extended the “Olive Branch Petition” to try and reconcile and even late into 1776 George Washington was backtracking while claiming “there was not a moment during the revolution when I would not have given everything I ever possessed for a restoration to the state of things before the contest began.” Despite all of this, Thomas Paine published Common Sense in January of 1776 touting the much different idea of independence, not just independence, but also a complete denouncement of England and their tyrannical ways.
Paine went in the exact opposite direction of Congress and Washington in Common...

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