From Common Sense Comes Inspiration

Thomas Paine, born in 1737 in Thetford in Norfolk, grew up the son of a poor Quaker corset maker.  His father had always encouraged him to attend and do well in grammar school, but eventually took him out and forced him into his trade. Paine was never satisfied with this occupation, but after wavering back and forth with it, he managed to become both and excise officer and manager of his own shop. Upon sorting out his career, Paine soon married and was expecting a child but both died during labor. After remarrying again in 1771, Paine soon became unhappy and separated from his wife. From that point on, Paine became largely involved in the town council and clubs but was soon banned from his job as shop manager. He decided he had done enough campaigning for the excise officers of London and reached out to Benjamin Franklin asking for him to send him to American where he would settle in Philadelphia and become a journalist; this is where Paine would make a mark on the face of history.

As a journalist, Paine contributed many articles to the Pennsylvania Ledger under the pseudonym, Forrester. As Forrester, he would write small articles and almost poetic sayings in which he would discuss the issues of society at the moment, mainly involving those of the King and his “dictatorship” over the American colonists. Paine’s political views expanded and gained stamina, which he then put into words in a pamphlet called Common Sense.

The pamphlet was almost ironic in its title seeing as many of the colonists had not considered the many points to the pamphlet in a negative way, until now. Paine wrote with such masculinity and intensity that the people were shocked and enlightened with what he composed. He provided the people with vigor and strength and offered them a plan once they had overthrown the King’s power; something that not many politically involved men had at the time.

Once the pamphlet was published on January 1, 1776, the masses were thirsty for freedom from the King’s tyrannical power over in England. They were angry and prepared to fight if they had to in order to gain their unalienable rights back. Many of the colonists often wrote back to Paine and their letters had been published in newspapers throughout the New England area and farther. One letter from Petersburg, Virginia in May 1776 tells of how intensely the pamphlet was praised and acted upon:

“In my way through Virginia, I found the inhabitants warm for independence. I spent last night with Mr.        , from South Carolina. He tells me that the people there have no expectation of ever being reconciled with Britain again, but only as a foreign state. … He says they are quite spirited and unanimous; indeed I hear nothing praised but COMMON SENSE and INDEPDENDENCE.”1

This excerpt from the Essex Journal was not the only one to demonstrate the excitement that the people had for this new and invigorating pamphlet. Many backed the statements Paine had made and elected to take a stance in order to regain their liberties.

On May 27, 1776, The Massachusetts Spy published the town of Canturbury’s meeting revolving around the pamphlet and the outcome of this gathering:

“We hear the town of Canturbury in a full meeting, have unanimously adopted the principle of independence contained in Common Sense; and also voted, that the delegated ought to be elected by the freemen of the colony, and not by their representatives.”2

Paine often wrote in small anecdotal excerpts to the colonists using metaphors to describe the situation between America and England. In one article from the Pennsylvania Ledger in April 1776, Paine writes as Forrester saying:

“The Forrester meeting with a Lion one day, they discoursed together for a while, without differing much in opinion. At last a dispute happened to arise between the point of superiority between a Man and a Lion; the Man, wanting a better argument, showed the Lion a marble monument, on which was placed the statue of Man striding over a vanquished Lion. If this, says the Lion is all you have to say for it, let us be the carvers, and we will make the Lion striding over the man.”3

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