Thomas Paine (1737-1809) 
Born in England and worked as an excise officer and many other occupations until 1774 when he met Benjamin Franklin in London and subsequently emigrated to the colonies.
The Case of the Officers of Excise (1772)
Common Sense (1776)
Letter to Abb
Raynal (1782)
Rights of Man (1791, 1792 published in two parts)
The Age of Reason (1794, 1795 published in two parts)
Agrarian Justice (1795)

Common Sense, 1792

Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense in 1776.  In his own words he said that he held up publication until he could judge the reaction from the crown to the Declaration of Independence.  There being none, he went ahead with publication.  Common Sense appeared in many different editions over the years.  The present edition was published in 1792 in London.  It cost 6 pence.  Note the reference to the "American War." 

In Common Sense, Paine addresses the problems of monarchy, the advisability of separation, the nature of society, and makes modest proposals for a new form of government.  He also considers practical considerations such as our relations with other countries in Europe, whether our diplomacy and trade should be governed by the self-interest of Britain, and the feasibility of winning a war of independence.  He considers the issues of population, resources, and the navy and concludes that it is possible.  Overall, he applies rational argument, supporting his points not only with philosophical but also with economic and political advantages.

The frontispiece of Common Sense also refers to The Rights of Man and to a Letter to the Abb Raynal both written by Thomas Paine.  While The Rights of Man is fairly well known, the Letter to Abb Raynal is not, yet Crvecoeur dedicated his Letters from an American Farmer to Abbe Raynal.     It is difficult to get a sense of that time, we only read and know about a few of the people who were writing to influence the new ideas concerning human rights, the role and shape of government, and dealing with a rapidly changing economy and world view.

Abb Raynal had published an account of the colonization of American and India in six volumes in 1770.  His radical views of the rights of the governed to withhold taxation and overthrow their rulers got him thrown out of France.  He is one of many writers at the time who exchanged ideas and had an influence on the thoughts and actions that led to the Revolutions in America and France.   Raynal also wrote a history of the American Revolution, while it was in progress.  He published it immediately following the war.  Paine was writing to correct Raynal's misconceptions and inaccuracies concerning the American Revolution.  He had certainly read some if not all of Raynal's work.  Paine's Letter to Raynal gives us a picture of the different points of view in Europe and America concerning the Revolution. 

Raynal is not a well-known name today, but neither would Thomas Paine be known to school children had not Thomas A. Edison worked to recall him to the limelight (see reference below).  Common Sense might have been relegated to the dusty shelves of academe had not Edison written and talked about him and his philosophy a hundred years later. 


Thomas Paine:

We have it in our power to begin the world over again.  (Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1792)

Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil in its worst state an intolerable one... (Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1792)

Mankind being originally equals in the order of creation, the equality could only be destroyed by some subsequent circumstance... (Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1792)

Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavored to subdue us, is of all others the most improper to defend us. Conquest may be effected under the pretence of friendship; and ourselves, after a long and brave resistance, be at last cheated into slavery.  (Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1792)

These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.  (Thomas Paine, The Crisis, 1794)

The stamp act, it is true, was repealed in two years after it was passed, but it was
immediately followed by one of infinitely more mischievous magnitude; I mean the
declaratory act, which asserted the right, as it was styled, of the British parliament, "to
bind America in all cases whatsoever."

If then the stamp act was an usurpation of the Americans' most precious and sacred
rights, the declaratory act left them no rights at all; and contained the full grown seeds
of the most despotic government ever exercised in the world. It placed America not
only in the lowest, but in the basest state of vassalage; because it demanded an
unconditional submission in every thing, or as the act expresses it, in all cases
whatsoever: and what renders this act the more offensive, is, that it appears to have
been passed as an act of mercy; truly then may it be said, that the tender mercies of
the wicked are cruel.   (Thomas Paine in his Letter to Abbe Raynal, 1782)

Abb Raynal:

All France is, at this time, divided into two classes. The good men, the men of moderation, are dispersed, mute, petrified with consternation; while men of violent spirits rush into close contact, electrify each other, and form those tremendous volcanoes which vomit so much flaming lava.  (Abbe Raynal in a letter to the National Assembly of France protesting the continued terror and inquisition, the abuse of power, and anarchy; May 31, 1791)

The etching below was included in the pamphlet.  Compare it with the engraving by William Sharp based on the  portrait by George Romney on the right which appeared in Conway's biography of Paine. 

The enlargements of the book are sufficient for easy reading -- they will be a slow download on a modem.  The photographs of the pamphlet by Paine may be used freely on non-commercial sites (no advertisements) and for educational purposes.  Please link to this page for copyright.


Further Resources:

The text of Common Sense.  1776 from Liberty Library

The text of Common Sense 1776 from Project Gutenberg, from book by Moncure Daniel Conway

Listen to Common Sense 1776 from

Selected writings of Thomas Paine from Liberty Library

Text of a biography of Thomas Paine by Moncure Daniel Conway, Volume One, 1892-- from Thomas Paine National Historical Association

Text of a biography of Thomas Paine by Moncure Daniel Conway, Volume Two, 1892 -- from Thomas Paine National Historical Association

Philip S. Foner.  The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine.  New York:  Citadel Press, 1945 -- complete text with comments by Foner -- excellent resource from Thomas Paine National Historical Association

The Philosophy of Thomas Paine -- a short essay by Thomas Alva Edison

The text of A Letter Addressed to the Abbe Raynal, on the Affairs of North America, in Which the Mistakes in the Abbe's Account of the Revolution of America Are Corrected and Cleared Up -- 1782 from Project Gutenberg

The text of  Letter to the Abbe Raynal -- downloadable from Ideas at University of Connecticut Economics

Abb Raynal, Philosophical and Political History of the Settlements and Trade of the Europeans in the East and West Indies (1770)

 (c) Marilyn Shea, 2005, 2006