Today in History, January 9, 1776:
The first copies of Thomas Paine’s pamphlet “Common Sense” are published in Philadelphia. Pamplets were the editorials, or blogs, if we must, of the day in the 18th century.
Paine had only recently immigrated to America from his homeland of England, yet he quickly took up the cause of independence.
Most of the people in America prior to the Revolution saw themselves not as Americans, but as British subjects, and proudly so. Many wanted to remain such, most were uncertain whether independence was a good idea. Most of the colonists were commoners, and it was assumed that only the elite were worthy of governance. Paine turned this theory on it’s head. He wrote to the commoners in plain language the difference between society and government; that gov’t was necessary, but must be limited; that AMERICA should govern herself. He started a firestorm….his pamphlet sold 120,000 copies the first month, 500,000 the first year. Percentages taken into account, Common Sense still counts as the best seller of all time. Paine refused to take any of the profits, donating all of them to Gen. Washington’s Continental Army.