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Book Details

  • Paperback
  • Bookstore's Wholesale Price: $16.00
  • December 2011
  • ISBN: 978-0-393-97870-4
  • 352 pages
  • Territory Rights: Worldwide

Common Sense and Other Writings

Norton Critical Editions


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Thomas Paine (Author), J. M. Opal (Editor, McGill University)


Thomas Paine often declared himself a citizen of the world. This Norton Critical Edition presents Paine and his writing within the transatlantic and global context of the revolutionary ideas and actions of his time.

Thomas Paine’s loyalties were with universal and self-evident principles rather than with a particular group or nation, and it is this dimension that informed his most important works. This Norton Critical Edition shows how Paine’s fury at the British Empire, including its injustices to South Asians and Africans, shaped his first best seller, Common Sense, and how his direct involvement with the French Revolution pushed his ideas toward a unique form of democratic radicalism. Together with his rejection of organized religion, Paine’s radicalism resulted in his being one of the most hated men in both monarchial Britain and republican America.

This volume includes J. M. Opal’s introduction, “Thomas Paine and the Revolutionary Enlightenment, 1770s–90s,” which provides essential biographical and historical details across three tumultuous decades. Paine’s most important works—from Common Sense (1776) through Agrarian Justice (1796)—are reprinted and are accompanied by explanatory annotations.

Supporting materials include a wide range of documents from the turbulent years following the publication of both Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence. These include Pennsylvania’s gradual emancipation statute of the 1780s, an ex-slave’s impassioned call for revolutionary violence against European imperialists and masters, and a British conservative’s witty rejoinder to Paine’s vision of a brave new world.

Four major interpretations of Paine’s work are provided by Nathan R. Perl-Rosenthal, Robert A. Ferguson, Gary Kates, and Gregory Claeys.

A Selected Bibliography is also included.


    Introduction: Thomas Paine and the Revolutionary Enlightenment, 1770s–1790s

    The Texts of Common Sense and Other Writings

    • Common Sense (1776)
    • The American Crisis #6, October 20, 1778
    • From Rights of Man, Part First, February 1791
    • Reasons for Preserving the Life of Louis Capet, January 15, 1793
    • Shall Louis XVI Have Respite? January 19, 1793
    • Agrarian Justice (1797)


    • [Second Continental Congress] A Declaration . . . Setting Forth the Causes and Necessity of Their Taking Up Arms, July 1775
    • [Pennsylvania General Assembly] An Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery, March 1, 1780
    • Quobna Ottobah Cugoano From Thoughts and Sentiments on the Evil and Wicked Traffic of the Slavery and Commerce of the Human Species (1787)
    • Richard Price A Discourse on the Love of Our Country (1789)
    • James Madison On Perpetual Peace, February 2, 1792
    • Will Chip, a Country Carpenter [Hannah More] Village Politics: Addressed to All the Mechanics, Journeymen, and Day-Labourers, in Great Britain (1793)
    • George Washington Farewell Address, September 19, 1796


    • Robert A. Ferguson The Commonalities of Common Sense
    • Nathan R. Perl-Rosenthal The “Divine Right of Republics”: Hebraic Republicanism and the Debate over Kingless Government in Revolutionary America
    • Gary Kates From Liberalism to Radicalism: Tom Paine’s Rights of Man
    • Gregory Claeys From The Origins of the Rights of Labor: Republicanism, Commerce, and the Construction of Modern Social Theory in Britain, 1796–1805

    Selected Bibliography