Common Sense (pamphlet)
Pamphlet's original cover
|Published||January 10, 1776|
Common Sense is a
It was sold and distributed widely and read aloud at taverns and meeting places. In proportion to the population of the colonies at that time (2.5 million), it had the largest sale and circulation of any book published in American history. As of 2006, it remains the all-time best selling American title, and is still in print today.
Common Sense made public a persuasive and impassioned case for independence, which before the pamphlet had not yet been given serious intellectual consideration. He connected independence with common dissenting Protestant beliefs as a means to present a distinctly American political identity, structuring Common Sense as if it were a sermon. Historian
The text was translated into French by
Thomas Paine arrived in the American colonies in November 1774, shortly before the
The publicity generated by the initial success and compounded by the publishing disagreements no doubt propelled the pamphlet to incredible sales and circulation. Common Sense sold almost 100,000 copies in 1776, and according to Paine, 120,000 copies were sold in the first three months. One biographer estimates that 500,000 copies sold in the first year (in both America and Europe – predominantly France and Britain), and another writes that Paine's pamphlet went through twenty-five published editions in the first year alone.
Aside from the printed pamphlet itself, there were many handwritten summaries and whole copies circulated. Paine also granted publishing rights to nearly every imprint which requested them, including several international editions. It was immensely popular in France, where it was published without its diatribes against monarchy. At least one newspaper printed the entire pamphlet; the
For nearly three months, Paine managed to maintain his anonymity, even during Bell's potent newspaper polemics. His name did not become officially connected with the independence controversy until March 30, 1776. Paine never did recoup the profits he felt due to him from Bell's first edition. Ultimately, he lost money on the Bradford printing as well, and because he decided to repudiate his copyright, never did profit from Common Sense.[