Tom Paine: America's Godfather, 1737-1809

By W. E. Woodward | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IV
Paine Writes a Best Seller

I

IT WAS Thomas Paine who brought all these tangled revolutionary impulses to a head and sent them moving in the direction of independence. He wrote a thin book, or pamphlet, called Common Sense in which he pointed out the folly of a strong, self-reliant people taking orders from a nation across the sea; and he showed also that many of the British rules and regulations concerning the Colonies were utterly senseless, and could have been conceived only by stupid officeholders who lacked all sound ideas of America and its people.

Paine was the first author in our history to reach the whole American public. His book was an extraordinary best seller, and its keynote was American Independence.

During the first six months after its publication about one hundred thousand copies of Common Sense were sold; the price was two shillings. There was no copyright law at that time, and the immense popularity of the pamphlet inspired several pirated editions, and these were big sellers also. The total distribution of all the printings was at least three hundred thousand copies --maybe even more.

Paine never made a penny from its publication. He intended to turn over all his profits to the Continental Army as a contribution to the cause of independence. But his arrangement with the printer--who was also the publisher--was so loosely worded that Paine had no way of checking up costs and profits, and the printer claimed that the cost of publication had absorbed nearly the whole amount received from the sale of the pamphlet, so there was only a little dribble of profit remaining and that was given to the patriotic fund. Paine was swindled, as he was in most of his financial transactions.

His name did not appear on the title page of the first edition

-66-

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Tom Paine: America's Godfather, 1737-1809
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Preface 5
  • Contents 7
  • Illustrations 9
  • Chapter I - The Little Quaker Boy 13
  • Chapter II - A Life Without Motive 33
  • Chapter III - Paine Comes to America 50
  • Chapter IV - Paine Writes a Best Seller 66
  • Chapter V - A Restless Intellectual 85
  • Chapter VI - The Silas Deane Controversy 97
  • Chapter VII - The Revolution's Financial Crisis 118
  • Chapter VIII - Paine as a Propagandist 133
  • Chapter IX - Iron Bridges and Tallow Candles 152
  • Chapter X - The Rights of Man 173
  • Chapter XI - More Books--More Trouble 199
  • Chapter XII - Outlawed in England 222
  • Chapter XIII - The Age of Reason 251
  • Chapter XIV - Monroe Rescues Paine 275
  • Chapter XV - The Last Sad Years 304
  • Bibliography 342
  • Index 345
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