Sunday, January 10, 2010

Correct publication date for COMMON SENSE by Thomas Paine

Thomas Paine's COMMON SENSE was not, as popularly held, published on the 10th of January 1776. Moncure Conway, one of Paine's best and most influential biographers, gave the date as 10 January and most biographical treatments have simply repeated that date. Paine antiquarian scholar Richard Gimbel and others corrected this error many years ago, but old habits die hard.  The best evidence comes from the announcement for its publication in the PENNSYLVANIA EVENING POST 9 January 1776:

"THIS day was published, and is now selling by
Robert Bell, in Third-street (price two shillings) COMMON SENSE
addressed to the INHABITANTS of AMERICA, on the following interesting
I. The origin and design of government in general, with concise Remarks
on the English Constitution.
II. Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession.
III. Thoughts on the present state of American affairs.
IV. Of the present ability of America, with some miscellaneous reflections.
Man knows no master save creating Heaven,
Or those whom choice and common good ordain.

Perhaps the best work on the publication history of Paine's Common Sense is found in

Gimbel, Richard
Check List of Common Sense With an Account of its Publication
New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956


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  2. Maybe it took a month before anyone got around to reading it! Tiny print, very few! Happy Birthday CS! And all praise to KB for keeping our hero front and center!
    - Jimmy