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Common Sense (1776)

Thomas Paine published Common Sense in January 1776, and it is believed to have greatly influenced support for the Patriot cause. Using clear, plain language, Paine rallied the colonists to support the break from Britain. He declared, “I am not induced by motives of pride, party, or resentment to espouse the doctrine of separation and independence; I am clearly, positively, and conscientiously persuaded that it is the true interest of this continent to be so.”

In arguing for American independence, Paine denounced the monarchy and argued that people are born into a state of equality. An advocate of natural rights theory, Paine claimed that there are no natural rulers among men. He then proposed a system of representative government for the colonies. Finally, Paine gave reasons for why the time was right to break from England. The pamphlet was published and widely read—read, in fact, by as great a proportion of the population as watches the Superbowl today. Congress approved the Declaration of Independence months later. Paine donated all his earnings from the sale of the pamphlet to the revolutionary cause.