Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine is normally given credit for the American Revolution because of his pamphlet Common Sense. At the time of its publication there was not much talk of independence from England.

Here is a great introductory lecture on Thomas Paine and Common Sense.

00:00 – Chapter 1. Introduction: Voting on Voting
01:40 – Chapter 2. On Paine’s Burial
05:52 – Chapter 3. Colonial Mindset during the Second Continental Congress
12:28 – Chapter 4. Serendipity and Passion: The Early Life of Thomas Paine
21:53 – Chapter 5. Major Arguments and Rhetorical Styles in Common Sense
33:45 – Chapter 6. Common Sense’s Popularity and Founders’ Reactions
39:16 – Chapter 7. Social Impact of the Pamphlet and Conclusion

This lecture focuses on the best-selling pamphlet of the American Revolution: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, discussing Paine’s life and the events that led him to write his pamphlet. Published in January of 1776, it condemned monarchy as a bad form of government, and urged the colonies to declare independence and establish their own form of republican government. Its incendiary language and simple format made it popular throughout the colonies, helping to radicalize many Americans and pushing them to seriously consider the idea of declaring independence from Britain.

Common Sense – III. Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs

Three main reasons Common Sense was so successful.

1. Timing

Reluctance to break ties with Britain, despite escalating warfare.


2. Message

Paine did not offer the same ideas as before. He called for an ultimatum. Give up reconciliation now, or forever lose the chance for independence.

Introduction. Readers must clear minds of long-held notions, apply common sense, and adopt new ideas.

Section One. The English government you worship is a sham.

Section Two. The monarchy you revere is not our protector, it’s our enemy.

Section Three. Our crisis today? It’s folly to think we should maintain loyalty to a distant tyrant. Reconciliation means ruin.

Section Four. We can win this war.

3. Rhetoric

“It is necessary to be bold. Some people can be reasoned into sense, and others must be shocked into it.” -Paine