I recently read Thomas Paine’s Common Sense for an eponymous meetup group. The idea of the group is to find what we all have in common with each other in order to inspire deep conversation and engagement. Early on in the meetings, I suggested that we read Paine’s book to see if it could help our discussions.
What I discovered is that the book is just as relevant today—if you replace the word monarchy with corporate and the word king with corporation—as it was just before our first revolution. The book is available to read for free online at gutenberg.org. We’re providing the Introduction here to share Paine’s style of writing and to inspire some readers to get familiar with our country’s founding documents.
One of the things that made Common Sense so popular is that it was written for everyone to understand, not just the upper class. This may seem strange when you read it since it seems like legalese, but I guess that’s how regular people spoke. You’ll notice that Paine did not sign the original run of the publication. This is because what he was writing would have gotten him killed if we didn’t win the revolution. Fortunately for him and the other founders of our country, we were able to shed our oppressor.
Happy July. I’m wishing you Independence from abuses of power.
By Thomas Paine
Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.
As a long and violent abuse of power, is generally the Means of calling the right of it in question (and in Matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the Sufferers been aggravated into the inquiry) and as the King of England hath undertaken in his own Right, to support the Parliament in what he calls Theirs, and as the good people of this country are grievously oppressed by the combination, they have an undoubted privilege to inquire into the pretensions of both, and equally to reject the usurpation of either.
In the following sheets, the author hath studiously avoided every thing which is personal among ourselves. Compliments as well as censure to individuals make no part thereof. The wise, and the worthy, need not the triumph of a pamphlet; and those whose sentiments are injudicious, or unfriendly, will cease of themselves unless too much pains are bestowed upon their conversion.
The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances hath, and will arise, which are not local, but universal, and through which the principles of all Lovers of Mankind are affected, and in the Event of which, their Affections are interested. The laying a Country desolate with Fire and Sword, declaring War against the natural rights of all Mankind, and extirpating the Defenders thereof from the Face of the Earth, is the Concern of every Man to whom Nature hath given the Power of feeling; of which Class, regardless of Party Censure, is the
P.S. The Publication of this new Edition hath been delayed, with a View of taking notice (had it been necessary) of any Attempt to refute the Doctrine of Independence: As no Answer hath yet appeared, it is now presumed that none will, the Time needful for getting such a Performance ready for the Public being considerably past.
Who the Author of this Production is, is wholly unnecessary to the Public, as the Object for Attention is the Doctrine itself, not the Man. Yet it may not be unnecessary to say, That he is unconnected with any Party, and under no sort of Influence public or private, but the influence of reason and principle.
Philadelphia, February 14, 1776