Sure, I’d heard of the guy. But I knew next to nothing about him, and I’d never read anything by him.
Now, I never miss an Independence Day without dipping into Paine.
Common Sense is powerful stuff. Written in a plainspoken, remarkably modern style, it’s the most passionate, exhilarating, and dazzling piece of “propaganda” to come out of the American Revolution: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”
Until the publication of Common Sense in January 1776, many American colonists may have been sold on the ideas of John Locke and Algernon Sidney, but they were still “more disposed to suffer, while evils [were] sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they [were] accustomed.” (Thanks, Mr. Jefferson.)
Paine’s “how-to” was sketchy at best, but he was phenomenal at building a vision for victory … and Common Sense set Americans aflame. Within seven months, American independence was an idea whose time had come.
Thomas Paine’s writings are indispensable. And I urge everyone to read or re-read Common Sense, especially during this long July 4 weekend.