Common Sense was published on January 10, 1776, in response to the uprising in the American colonies against the British, now known as the American Revolution. Within the first three months, 120,000 copies of this 48-page pamphlet were published, with 500,000 copies published in the first year. Paine kept none of the profits from the publication, but instead gave his earnings to George Washington’s Continental Army. The pamphlet Common Sense influenced popular opinion towards the revolution more than any other work of the time. Paine wrote it with the common man in mind, using sermon-like language and biblical references that the colonists could understand and relate to. Because Common Sense was so widely read, it instigated a national debate about the war, independence, and government that had not previously existed.
While Paine’s work was widely read, Common Sense did not necessarily influence the work of the Continental Congress and the founding fathers. For example, John Adams disagreed with Thomas Paine’s radical ideas of republican government and wrote his own work, Thoughts on Government, in 1776 to provide a more conservative view. However, Paine’s popularity influenced popular feeling. His writings were read by Benjamin Franklin, a friend since 1774, and George Washington. Washington even had Paine’s The American Crisis read to his troops in order to boost morale. Therefore, Thomas Paine’s philosophies and writings were an integral part of the American Revolution, but not the only part. He caused controversy and provoked discussion. While the true impact of Common Sense cannot be calculated, his work assisted in the formation of the American nation and has become the foundation for political theorists in the twentieth century.