On November 30, 1774, London Packet arrived in the port of Philadelphia. On the ship was Thomas Paine a 37-year-old Englishman. Thomas did even know he was in America. He had caught the deadly disease typhus.
Thomas didn't have a good start at life into America because he held and lost a number of different jobs and had no money. he did have one important asset for his new life, letters of introduction from Benjamin Franklin. Him and Franklin met in London. He had impressed him with his sharp mind and his interest in science and politics. Franklin wanted Paine to go to Pennsylvania.
Paine had arrived in the largest and most prosperous city in colonial America(Philadelphia). He got a new job as a editor for a new magazine. Paine soon made his publication, Pennsylvania Magazine, the most widely read magazine in the colonies. Years as a tax collector had left him with no love for the British government. His articles criticized British officials and colonial rule. In October 1775, he began working on the essay he would call Common Sense.
By December, Paine had finished his essay. But he had trouble getting it published. The subject of independence was just too hot for many publishers to handle. He found a publisher who agreed to print a thousand copies as a pamphlet. It was 46 pages long. On January 10, 1776, Common Sense appeared in bookstores.
The first edition sold out in days. Paine had more copies printed, and those sold out, too. Within a few months, readers had bought more than 120,000 copies of Common Sense. By the end of the year, 25 editions had been printed. Hundreds of thousands of copies were in circulation throughout the colonies. It is estimated that as many as half of all colonial citizens had either read the pamphlet or had it read to them.
Common Sense did not start the movement for independence. That movement had been building for some time. Nor did it cause colonial leaders to declare independence. Another six months would pass before the Declaration of Independence was issued. But Paine's work opened up the debate on separation from Great Britain. It helped many colonists see independence as a real possibility.