Skip to content

Thomas Paine

We Are Radicals at Heart: A New History Gets America Wrong

Coming to America in late 1774, already approaching 40, Paine not only had all the makings of a radical. He also carried within him the idea of the “rights of the freeborn Briton”—an idea cultivated by a tradition of “radicalism” that reached from the Peasant Rising of 1381, to the English Revolution of the 1640s (in which the English taught the French how to take off the head of a king), to the popular crowd actions of eighteenth-century London. And yet, he did not become a radical until his arrival in Philadelphia in 1774. Indeed, it was Americans themselves who turned him into a revolutionary and he returned the favor. Impressed by their diversity and rebelliousness, the liberty-loving and democratic spirit that animated their actions, and how they had organized themselves to govern everyday public life and commerce, he wrote Common Sense to enable Americans to see who they were, what they were about, and what they might achieve (“We have it in our power to begin the world over again”), and thereby turned their colonial rebellion into a world-historic revolution for independence and the making of a democratic republic.
Sign Up To Our Daily Digest

Independent media outlets are being suppressed and dropped by corporations like Google, Facebook and Twitter. Sign up for our daily email digest before it’s too late so you don’t miss the latest movement news.