On this day in 1776 Thomas Paine, a former corsetmaker and would be instructor of young ladies, anonymously published in Philadelphia a pamphlet titled Common Sense. It contains some of the most stirring political rhetoric evern published, and its inspirational phrases resonate strongly with people down to the present day.
In a matter of months Common Sense sold an amazing 120,000 copies and helped to crystalize American resistance around a set of principles and perspectives that has informed our political culture ever since. Paine asserted the initial equality of all men, assulted the institution of monarchy and all hereditary status, and shifted the debate from complaints over Parliamentary actions to a critique of the entire British imperial system. He urged a complete break with that system and the creation of a constitutional republic that would become an "asylum" for all mankind.
O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose, not only the tyranny, but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia, and Africa, have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mind.
[L]et each of us, hold out to his neighbor the hearty hand of friendship, and unite in drawing a line, which, like an act of oblivion, shall bury in forgetfulness every former dissention. Let the names of Whig and Tory be extinct; and let none other be heard among us, than those of a good citizen, an open and resolute friend, and a virtuous supporter of the RIGHTS of MANKIND and of the FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES OF AMERICA.