Let’s start with the “Plain Truth”
“Plain Truth,” that’s the working title originally considered for Thomas Paine’s pamphlet ultimately called and to be known evermore as Common Sense. Published on January 10, 1776, at the outset of the American Revolution, it was an instant hit you might say with the colonists. It proved once again that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Paine’s ability to write in plain language made his ideas accessible to colonists rich and poor. Common Sense went to print with an agreement between Paine and its publisher, Robert Bell that if the pamphlet lost money, Paine would cover the cost. Bell set the price at two shillings, which Paine thought too high. Eventually over five hundred thousand copies were sold.
By today’s standards Common Sense would be considered a bestseller. The pamphlet was a huge financial success. While Paine could certainly have used the money, he never took a penny of the profits instead turning his share over to the American cause. His agreement with Bell was for his share of the profits to be used to buy mittens for the American Soldiers stationed in Canada. After a falling out with Bell, he found another publisher who lowered the price to one shilling. Paine later paid for the publishing of six thousand copies out of his own pocket and eventually allowed reproduction of the pamphlet by anyone who would cover the costs.
General George Washington wrote to a friend in Massachusetts: “I find that Common Sense is working a powerful change there in the minds of many men. Few pamphlets have had so dramatic an effect on political events.”
(sources: Wikipedia article; image and excerpts from the Thomas Paine Society)
About the cover image
Cover photo by author taken July 2015. “At the window” Rose Hill Manor, Frederick, Maryland; the retirement home of Thomas Johnson, the first elected Governor of the State of Maryland and Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. It was built in the mid-1790s.
Political – A Trilogy
Political the chapbook started as “Political– a trilogy.” The reading here includes all three pieces “Custer’s Last Stand,” “An All-American Anecdote,” and “Weed/Killer.” If you have the chapbook, please follow along.