Why Common Sense Matters

Thomas Paine's Common Sense, 1776.   Photo by   Daily Herd Management

Thomas Paine's Common Sense, 1776. Photo by Daily Herd Management

With Independence Day approaching, let’s take a closer look into American history and the heroes involved within it. There are many figures that come to mind when thinking about America’s journey to freedom; however, Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” is arguably one of the most influential pieces in American history. A man that impacted history mainly with his mind, rather than actions, can be considered very respectable. Today, our society needs to be reminded of the newspapers, writing and techniques that played a huge role in the American Revolution.

In 1776, Thomas Paine published his pamphlet “Common Sense,” advocating independence from Great Britain to the people of the Thirteen Colonies - as a modern day journalist would deliver news or express opinion. The 47-page pamphlet was originally published anonymously at the beginning of the American Revolution and was an instant sensation, not only in Philadelphia, but across the Thirteen Colonies. Nearly 120,000 copies were in circulation within three months of its release. 

“Give me liberty, or give me death,” is one of the most iconic quotes from “Common Sense” and remains a constant motto within the pamphlet; however, the main goal of the pamphlet was to help convince many of the undecided colonists that the fight for their freedom was in their best interest. Perhaps, trying to offer the colonists some common sense? Pun intended.

If you know the author of COMMON SENSE, tell him he has done wonders and worked miracles. His stile [sic] is plain and nervous; his facts are true; his reasoning, just and conclusive.
— A Marylander to the Pennsylvania Evening Post, February 7, 1776

Paine’s political pamphlet was successful, but also served as a brilliant marketing tactic. During these times, people looked up to and were very attentive to writers, as education was more accessible. Paine's writing impacted those who could and could not read. The pamphlet was also published at the same time as a proclamation on the colonies by King George III, contrasting the message with heavy anti-monarchical Common Sense. The style of his speech was directed to the common people, touched on morals, government and the mechanisms of democracy. Overall, the document swayed people into supporting individuals who favored declaring independence from Great Britain, changing the minds of colonists that were questionable about the idea of independence.

We can appreciate Thomas Paine’s sequence of tactics and way of words; without them, we wouldn’t be where we are today. His famous document was cultivated around a specific audience, a vital factor PR professionals have to consider still today.

By analyzing the strategies of our country’s revolutionary leaders, it gives us a sense of the efforts, knowledge, writing and leadership that went into America’s journey to freedom - something that we should all acknowledge and celebrate this Independence Day!

Writer Thomas Paine.   Photo by Biography.com

Writer Thomas Paine. Photo by Biography.com