His Name is Paine


In the winter of 1776, John Adams read “Common Sense,” an anonymous, fanatical, and brutally brilliant seventy-seven-page pamphlet that would convince the American people of what more than a decade of taxes and nearly a year of war had not: that it was nothing less than their destiny to declare independence from Britain. “The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind” was its astonishing and inspiring claim about the fate of thirteen infant colonies on the edge of the world. “The sun never shone on a cause of greater worth. ’Tis not the affair of a city, a county, a province, or a kingdom; but of a continent—of at least one-eighth part of the habitable globe. ’Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceedings now.” Whether these words were preposterous or prophetic no one could say for sure, but everyone wondered: Who could have written such stirring stuff?

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