Prof. Van Vleck
TA: Mark Redmond
13 February 2013
It is often unclear whether a leader defines the times, or whether the time period opens the door for a leader to emerge. Thomas Paine was most certainly the latter. By writing Common Sense at a time when America was ripe with purpose he thrust the American people into a war with the greatest empire of the age. Thomas Paine wrote one of the most influential documents in U.S history through a brilliant understanding of the audience and cultural atmosphere.
Thomas Paine, born in England, immigrated to America in 1774 with the help of Benjamin Franklin. In Britain’s colonial America he took up a post as editor of the Pennsylvania Magazine. Equipped with grammar school education and experience publishing several political works, it is clear how Paine possessed the literary skills to inspire action through his words. He even distributed 4,000 copies of The Case of the Officers of Excise that fought for improved working conditions and pay. Furthermore, he had been ostracized by several jobs, and been through a divorce with his wife. These factors contributed to his sympathy, compassion, and anger regarding the colonists’ plight. The beginning of the American Revolution can be traced back to the French and Indian war and the immense costs incurred on the British. As a direct result, harsh taxes were enacted on the colonies such as the infamous Townshend Acts of 1767. The Acts, which were repealed in 1770, proved to be a huge British error. They created American animosity and stemmed the anti-British sentiment that Common Sense would utilize. The tax on tea remained, however, culminating in 1773 and the Boston Tea Party. Through an event of this nature, one can see the unity of the colonists and their willingness to act; these two characteristics would prove vital to the revolution. It should not be assumed that this passion lay within everyone. Despite their discontent, much of...