Thomas Paine has a claim to the title The Father of the American Revolution, which rests on his pamphlets, especially Common Sense, which crystallized sentiment for independence in 1776. It was published in Philadelphia on January 10, 1776, and signed anonymously “by an Englishman.” It became an immediate success, quickly spreading 100,000 copies in three months to the two million residents of the 13 colonies. In all about 500,000 copies total including unauthorized editions were sold during the course of the American Revolution. Paine’s original title for the pamphlet was Plain Truth; Paine’s friend, pro-independence advocate Benjamin Rush, suggested Common Sense instead.
The pamphlet came into circulation in January 1776, after the Revolution had started. It was passed around, and often read aloud in taverns, contributing significantly to spreading the idea of republicanism, bolstering enthusiasm for separation from Britain, and encouraging recruitment for the Continental Army. Paine provided a new and convincing argument for independence by advocating a complete break with history. Common Sense is oriented to the future in a way that compels the reader to make an immediate choice. It offers a solution for Americans disgusted with and alarmed at the threat of tyranny.