“In Common Sense a writer found his moment to change the world,” writes in his introduction. When ’s attack on the British mixed constitution of kings, lords, and commons was published in January 1776, fighting had already erupted between British troops and American Patriots, but many Patriots still balked at seeking independence. “By discrediting the sovereign king,” Taylor argues, “Paine made independence thinkable—as he relocated sovereignty from a royal family to the collective people of a republic.” Paine’s American readers could conclude that they stood at “the center of a new and coming world of utopian potential.” The John Harvard Library edition follows the text of the expanded edition printed by the shop of Benjamin Towne for W. and T. Bradford of Philadelphia.
Alan Taylor is Professor of History at the University of California, Davis. He is the author of several books, including William Cooper’s Town: Power and Persuasion on the Frontier of the Early American Republic, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History and the Bancroft Prize for American History.