Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine

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  • I don't feel good.
  • Thomas, you don't look good. You should take a nap.
  • Great! My boss fired me!
  • Well now I can see the letters of introduction from Benjamin Franklin.
  • I think I was meant to be an editor. I am meant to be an editor!
  • On November 30, 1774, the ship   London Packet  arrived in the port of Philadelphia. On board was a 37-year-old Englishman named Thomas Paine.  Paine was not even aware that he had landed in America.  He was burning up with fever and was barely conscious.  He had caught the deadly disease typhus.
  • Who wants the pamphlet Common Sense.
  • I want one! I want one! I want one!
  • It was not a promising start to life in America. But then, not very much in Paine's life had gone well. He had held—and lost—a number of different jobs. He had been a craftsman, a teacher, a tax collector, and a shopkeeper. In the end, though, he had little to show for his efforts. He had no money and few prospects. But he did have one important asset for his new life: letters of introduction from Benjamin Franklin.
  • So have you read the pamphlet Common Sense?
  • Yes. It was an amazing pamphlet. I've heard that it has become famous.
  • With the help of Franklin's introduction, Paine soon landed a job as the editor of a new magazine. He had already done some writing in England. But it was here that he discovered his true calling as a writer. Paine soon made his publication, Pennsylvania Magazine, the most widely read magazine in the colonies.
  • On January 10, 1776, Common Sense appeared in bookstores. What happened next was astonishing. 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 was a runaway success. And Thomas Paine was America's first bestselling author.
  • Although Paine's words were powerful, his ideas were not new. Many other colonial leaders, such as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams, had expressed similar thoughts. But Paine was able to put those ideas together in a single, compelling argument that spoke to a mass audience.
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