In 1776 a small pamphlet was published that ignited calls for independence in America and shifted the political landscape of the patriot movement from reform within the British imperial system to detachment from it.

One hundred twenty thousand copies sold in the first three months in a nation of three million people, making Common Sense the best-selling printed work by a single author in American history up to that time.

“If there are certain principles, as I think there are, which the constitution of our nature leads us to believe, and which we are under a necessity to take for granted in the common concerns of life, without being able to give a reason for them — these are what we call the principles of common sense; and what is manifestly contrary to them, is what we call absurd.”

Never before had a pamphlet been written in an inspiring style so accessible to the “common” folk of America.

This lesson looks at Thomas Paine and at some of the ideas presented in Common Sense, such as national unity, natural rights, the illegitimacy of the monarchy and of hereditary aristocracy, and the necessity for independence and the revolutionary struggle.