What Was Common Sense and Why Was It Significant in American History?

Common Sense was a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in January 1776, which became one of the most influential documents in American history. It was published at a time when the American colonies were struggling to find a unified voice in their fight against British rule. This article will explore what Common Sense was and why it was significant in American history.

The Content of Common Sense

Common Sense was a short pamphlet of just 47 pages that argued for American independence from British rule. Paine wrote the pamphlet in simple and accessible language, making it easy for ordinary people to understand.

He explained that the British monarchy was corrupt and had no right to rule over America. He also criticized the idea of hereditary succession, arguing that people should be appointed to government positions based on merit rather than birthright.

Paine’s argument for American independence rested on two main points. First, he argued that America was too large and diverse to be governed effectively by Britain. Second, he claimed that the British government had no real interest in governing America except to exploit its resources.

The Significance of Common Sense

The publication of Common Sense had a profound impact on American public opinion and helped unify the colonies against British rule. Before its publication, many colonists were still undecided about whether they should seek independence from Britain or continue to seek reconciliation with the Crown.

However, Paine’s arguments resonated with many Americans who were frustrated with British rule and who saw independence as the only solution to their problems. Within months of its publication, Common Sense had sold over 100,000 copies and had been read by almost every literate person in America.

Common Sense also helped galvanize support for the Continental Army led by George Washington. The pamphlet convinced many Americans that they were fighting not just for their own rights but for a larger cause – the cause of liberty and democracy.

The Legacy of Common Sense

Common Sense played a crucial role in the American Revolution and the eventual creation of the United States. It helped transform public opinion and galvanize support for independence, leading to the Declaration of Independence in July 1776.

But Common Sense also had a broader impact on American political thought. Paine’s arguments for democracy and individual rights influenced many of the Founding Fathers, including Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin. The pamphlet helped establish the idea that government should be based on the consent of the governed, rather than on inherited privilege or divine right.

In conclusion, Common Sense was a short but powerful pamphlet that helped shape American history. Its publication helped unify the colonies against British rule and galvanized support for independence. But perhaps more importantly, it helped establish key principles of American democracy that continue to shape our politics and society today.