On this day 231 years ago, Philadelphia blogger Thomas Paine released version 1.0 of his popular political pamphlet, “Common Sense.” The booklet sold some 500,000 copies at a time when there were only about 5 million colonists (along with 700,000 African slaves and whatever Native Americans hadn’t been killed or run off to French territory at that point).
Read all about the first American bestseller, after the jump.
A real Paine in the ass, the Englishman had only been in the colonies a few years when he wrote his attack on the Crown. Some of his arguments were indeed common sense, while others were just stupid “because I said so” things he called Natural Law — why, exactly, can’t an island rule a continent? Today a dirty little swamp settlement runs most of the world. And the Death Star was just a round space station that controlled the entire galaxy!
He had some powerful friends such as Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Napoleon, but everybody else wanted him dead. He accidentally escaped the guillotine in France and generally spent his later years on the run.
The revolutionary author was hated by the time he died in Greenwich Village in 1809. The Federalists had pissed all over his “That government is best which governs least” idea, while the proudly ignorant Jesus Freaks of the Second Great Awakening had already destroyed his Age of Reason. Just six people came to his funeral (including two freed slaves) and the papers dismissed him as a dangerous lunatic. Oh well!
Wednesday Breakfast Bender [Washington Post]