"Revolutionary America! 1763-1789 April 20-November 3, 2002

Common Sense

photo of exhibit section
In this photo:
PUBLICATIONS (in case) include"Votes of American Congress - 1774";"A Calm Address to our American Colonies" 1776 and "Observations on the Nature of Civil Liberty" 1776
  On loan from the collection of:
    --University of Iowa Main Library, Special Collections, Iowa City IA
    --Andy Ball, Des Moines IA
REPRODUCTIONS (at right) depict an engraving of Philadelphia; the Statehouse Of Philadelphia (later called Independence Hall - in 1776 the belfry was unfinished) and a photograph of the Assembly Room in Independence Hall. At mid-center is a portrait of THOMAS PAINE.
PORTRAIT (reproduction) of John Hancock (top center)
LETTERS (facsimiles, bottom left) between Abigail and John Adams, 1776, when Abigail pleaded with John to "Remember the Ladies" when pushing for independence. John responded that "…We know better than to repeal our Masculine systems [that are] little more than Theory… in Practice you know We are the subjects. We have only the Name of Masters, and [to] give up this…would completely subject Us to the Despotism of the Peticoat…."
    --Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston MA
PORTRAITS (reproductions) of John and Abigail Adams
ARTWORK (top left) depicting English lords in the court of King George III accusing Franklin of being "a thief, a liar, and having delusions of grandeur."

"T'is time to part" (Thomas Paine)

In September 1774, the First Continental Congress was convened at the Old Statehouse (now Independence Hall) in Philadelphia. Most of the delegates wanted to return to their prosperous colonial lives supported by the British Empire, unaware that they would be at war by the next spring.

In January 1776, political thought was impacted dramatically by the publication of Common Sense, hailed by historians as the most brilliant pamphlet ever written. Published by THOMAS PAINE, the prose forcefully reversed all presumptions that kept Americans clinging to England. Paine was the first to publicly question hereditary rule and also focus on the vast resources of America - "there is something absurd in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island." Common Sense swept through the colonies and within six months, colonial leaders would sign a declaration of independence.

Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggarman, Thief

JOHN HANCOCK, the elegant outlaw, was voted president of the Second Continental Congress. He was shocked, however, when his friend John Adams nominated George Washington to head the army ... it was a position he had fancied for himself.

SAMUEL ADAMS quietly worked behind the scenes. Frustrated, he wrote a friend that Congress had "the vanity of the ape, the tameness of the ox, or the stupid servility of the ass."

JOHN ADAMS lobbied constantly, even obnoxiously, for unified independence. Shrewdly realizing that New England needed Southern support, his nomination of Washington as Commander-in-Chief created a strong ally from prosperous Virginia.

BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, still in London in 1774-75, was accused of stealing and circulating the contents of an anti-American letter. Bitterly disenchanted, the 69-year-old returned home where he joined delegates pushing for independence.


When Did it Happen? Sub-Sections
The Shot Heard Round the World
  Miniature Diorama
  George Washington, Commander in Chief
Common Sense (You are here)
  Pamphlet, "Common Sense"
The Colonies Commit Treason
  56 Traitors Who Signed the Declaration of Independence


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