When the Boston Massacre occurred on March 5, 1770 and the Boston Tea Party took place on December 16th, 1773, the colonists were highly agitated by these events, but throughout all of this, they still considered themselves British subjects that had grievances against the reigning British monarch, George III. In the year 1775, hostilities broke out between the colonists and the British army in these battles:
- 4/19/1775 The Battles of Lexington and Concord Lexington and Concord Massachusetts
- 5/10/1775 The Siege of Fort Ticonderoga Fort Ticonderoga, New York
- 5/27/1775 The Battle of Chelsea Creek Suffolk County, Massachusetts
- 6/16/1775 The Battle of Bunker (Breeds) Hill Charlestown, Massachusetts
- 12/31/1775 The Battle of Quebec Quebec City, Province of Quebec
Even after these battles, the colonists continued to consider themselves British subjects.
That all changed after an anonymous pamphlet was published on January 9th, 1776 called ‘Common Sense‘. During this time period, pamphlets were the best way to spread ideas to large numbers, and Thomas Paine began writing this pamphlet in response to a speech that King George III gave to Parliament, on October 27th, 1775, in which he declared the American colonies have begun a rebellion against the British crown, where full military intervention was required to quell it. It was Paine’s friend Dr. Benjamin Rush that suggested he title the pamphlet Common Sense.
When Paine finished the pamphlet, he contacted Philadelphia printer Robert Bell to publish his work, and his words had a decidedly profound effect on the colonists. When the political leaders, as well as the average citizens, read the pamphlet, no longer did they view the events that were occurring as just grievances against the crown of England, but they began to have a very different idea and that was to call for independence from Britain, that led them to the American Revolution.
In the pamphlet, they read:
“Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.”
Many of the colonists’ ancestors, as well as those that had recently arrived, came to the American colonies to escape monarchical rule or to find religious freedoms from a European continent that persecuted them for their beliefs. This new idea of a creating a new country appealed to a vast number of the colonists. Common Sense advocated for the breaking away from Britain’s rule and it helped inspire the idea of the creation of the Declaration of Independence.
Common Sense became an instant best-seller in the colonies and also in Europe, and it was republished in all parts of the United States. This made Thomas Paine internationally famous.
Click here to read the full text of Common Sense or you can listen to this audiobook