“ We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
256 years since those powerful words were signed into existence by 56 delegates from across 13 colonies, a fledgling nation whose future none amongst those stoic men of virtue could have imagined. The echoes of the values espoused in those lines would move the nation and write the course of its destiny, the vestiges of its power still felt today, albeit oft with faint regard.
2 years prior to the enacting of that unprecedented document another document, a pamphlet, would be written. A pamphlet written by a commoner man of low-birth, someone who historically would have amounted to very little outside the inner circles of his family and social life. Thomas Paine's, Common Sense would be one of the most highly distributed, read and listened to writings conjured during the dawn of the revolution that would grip those 13 British colonies, far across the Atlantic.
Paine was born February 9th, 1737 in Thetford, Norfolk, in the Kingdom of Great Britain, to a corsetier or corset maker. Early on Paine worked under his father as an apprentice, his father most likely seeing in Paine the continuation of their business and his legacy. To the great dismay of his father, Paine failed his apprenticeship and dropped out, in search of other callings. Paine spent a short time during the following years first as a sailor and later as a tax officer for England. Paine worked through a meager living doing the latter in London where he met Ben Franklin in 1774. Franklin, taking a liking to Paine, assisted in his transport and emigration to the American colonies. Braving through a bout of scurvy on the trip over, Paine arrived in Philadelphia later in 1774 where he took up work in journalism as the managing editor for the Philadelphia Magazine. Paine not only edited but often wrote for the magazine usually under a pseudonym. That was not what brought the man to prominence and high regard though.
Published on January 10, 1776 the pamphlet Common Sense quickly sold out its initial 1,000 copies. By the end of that year somewhere in the park of 150,000 copies would be printed and sold. Common Sense, written by Paine proved to be a truly revolutionary and motivating work that would be distributed and circulated widely amongst the colonial revolutionaries and patriots. The inner chapters of the pamphlet espoused ideals, values and virtues of liberty, independence, self-reliance, and a moral obligation to God, mankind and our natural rights. So influential was the work that John Adams is quoted as saying “Without the pen of the author of ‘Common Sense’, the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain.” Indeed, Paine wrote repeatedly throughout the piece that complacency would be the demise of our country and the children who inherit it; a common theme I came across when reading it. Not only that but he questioned the morality and virtue of submitting to a King (specifically) but more importantly an authority of man that resided above God and the natural rights he had given us upon creation.
Common sense was truly the writings of a revolutionary idea that gripped our young nation in its smallest hours; enlightenment ideals that embodied the very essence of freedom, liberty and revolution against the slavers of mankind. This is something I, the author writing this article, find our current day progressives seem to have forgotten. For all the talk of revolution and liberation by our left leaning countrymen and women they seem to not understand the foundation and true ideas that surrounded our very own freedom and unfettering from an actual tyrant.
After having written the aforementioned pamphlet along with a great degree of success, Paine went on to shadow the continental army. During his time amongst this new organization of citizen soldiery, he would write more equally important and successful essays and articles titled ‘The American Crisis’ between the years of 1776 and 1783; many of which would again receive wide circulation amongst rebels and patriots. Some would even be distributed by Washington himself to his own army to boost morale at Valley Forge, before the noteworthy crossing of the Delaware.
Paine would go on to write more, and play a smaller but still pivotal role in the French Revolution. In his later years, he moved back to the United States after having spent much time in Europe and France. Unfortunately Paine died in relative obscurity on June 8th, 1809 at the age of 72, only 8 would show up to his funeral. During his twilight years he wrote more pieces such as ‘The Age of Reason’ a scathing commentary on the Church and the role of religious institutions in government. Not only that but he severely criticized many of his previous friends and allies including George Washington. It is a curious question of how or what caused him to become so bitter and angry towards those and that which he held dearly in his earlier life. I have my curiosities and theories but that is something for another time.
A prominent writer, journalist, and enlightenment philosopher, Thomas Paine would write some of the most prominent pieces of American literature during the it's Revolution and so forth, to this day. His thoughts, ideas and thinking were the cornerstone and a crucial brick in the foundation of what made the people who founded our country do what they did, and to this day what defines us summarily as Americans. It is with a heavy heart that I look at the current state of our diverse and once prominent nation and wonder to myself what went wrong and why we have fallen so far from those idealistic values and beliefs.
It is obvious to me, at almost day one after our independence, we began a long journey towards where we are today. At the core of this, being where we as humans have resided for many millennia. A state of servitude, compliance, and indifferent subjugation to those few elite and powerful of our bodies. After over two centuries of smug indifference in the presence of would be tyrants and autocrats, we have allowed our land to slowly slide back into that natural state of existence, where the weakest and most easily exploited have casually sat back down and allowed their liberties be signed off, the liberties the men that founded our country so heroically fought for and espoused. I believe that if Thomas Paine were to live in the present and experience what we are experiencing every day, he would not live one more hour without being driven to immediate action.
Thank you for taking your time to read this. This is part one in a series I will be writing and transforming into a series of Rumble/YouTube videos for those of you who would prefer to listen. Throughout this series I will be exploring our current political and social climate through the lens of Thomas Paine's first work ‘Common Sense’. Stay tuned for more, and as always, God bless and be non compliant.
“These are the times that try men’s souls.” - Thomas Paine