09
Jan
09

On This Day, 1-9-2009: Common Sense

January 9, 1776

Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense

On this day in 1776, writer Thomas Paine publishes his pamphlet “Common Sense,” setting forth his arguments in favor of American independence.  Although little used today, pamphlets were an important medium for the spread of ideas in the 16th through 19th centuries.

Originally published anonymously, “Common Sense” advocated independence for the American colonies from Britain and is considered one of the most influential pamphlets in American history.  Credited with uniting average citizens and political leaders behind the idea of independence, “Common Sense” played a remarkable role in transforming a colonial squabble into the American Revolution.

At the time Paine wrote “Common Sense,” most colonists considered themselves to be aggrieved Britons.  Paine fundamentally changed the tenor of colonists’ argument with the crown when he wrote the following:  “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America.  This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe.  Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.”

Paine was born in England in 1737 and worked as a corset maker in his teens and, later, as a sailor and schoolteacher before becoming a prominent pamphleteer. In 1774, Paine arrived in Philadelphia and soon came to support American independence.  Two years later, his 47-page pamphlet sold some 500,000 copies, powerfully influencing American opinion. Paine went on to serve in the U.S. Army and to work for the Committee of Foreign Affairs before returning to Europe in 1787.  Back in England, he continued writing pamphlets in support of revolution. He released “The Rights of Man,” supporting the French Revolution in 1791-92, in answer to Edmund Burke’s famous “Reflections on the Revolution in France” (1790). His sentiments were highly unpopular with the still-monarchal British government, so he fled to France, where he was later arrested for his political opinions.  He returned to the United States in 1802 and died in New York in 1809.

“Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense.” 2009. The History Channel website. 9 Jan 2009, 11:46 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=4210.

On This Day

1793 – Jean-Pierre Blanchard made the first successful balloon flight in the U.S.

1861 – The state of Mississippi seceded from the United States.

1902 – New York State introduced a bill to outlaw flirting in public.

1905 – In Russia, the civil disturbances known as the Revolution of 1905 forced Czar Nicholas II to grant some civil rights.

1951 – The United Nations headquarters officially opened in New York City.

1972 – The ocean liner Queen Elizabeth was destroyed by fire in Hong Kong harbor.

2002 – The U.S. Justice Department announced that it was pursuing a criminal investigation of Enron Corp. The company had filed for bankruptcy on December 2, 2001.

January 9, 1952

Truman warns of Cold War dangers

In his 1952 State of the Union address, President Harry S. Truman warns Americans that they are “moving through a perilous time,” and calls for vigorous action to meet the communist threat.

Though Truman’s popularity had nose-dived during the previous 18 months because of complaints about the way that he handled the Korean War, his speech received a standing ovation from congressmen and special guest Prime Minister Winston Churchill.

Truman spent much of his speech addressing foreign policy concerns. The primary focus was on meeting the communist challenge. The president declared that the United States was confronted with “a terrible threat of aggression.” He also pointed with pride to U.S. action in meeting that threat. In Korea, combined U.S. and United Nations forces “turned back the Chinese Communist invasion;” elsewhere in Asia, U.S. assistance to its allies was helping to “hold back the Communist advance;” and in Europe and the Middle East, the fight against Soviet expansion was also ongoing.

Truman was particularly proud of the Point Four program, which provided U.S. scientific and technical assistance (such as in the field of agriculture) to the underdeveloped world, claiming that it helped “feed the whole world so we would not have to stomach communism.” There could be no slacking of effort, however, since the Soviet Union was “increasing its armed might,” and with the Soviet acquisition of atomic bomb technology, the world was still walking “in the shadow of another world war.”

Truman’s speech was a stirring rebuttal to domestic critics like Senator Joseph McCarthy, who attacked Truman’s “softness” on communism. Perhaps such criticism contributed to Truman’s decision not to run for re-election. Adlai Stevenson ran as the Democratic candidate, but he lost the election to Dwight Eisenhower.

“Truman warns of Cold War dangers.” 2009. The History Channel website. 9 Jan 2009, 11:50 http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=2541.

On This Day in Wisconsin: January 9

1859 – Carrie Chapman Catt Born
On this date Carrie Chapman Catt was born in Ripon. Born Carrie Clinton Lane, she was the only woman in the 1880 graduating class at the Iowa Agricultural College. After graduation, she worked as a law clerk, school teacher, and principal. She was one of the first women in the U.S. to be appointed Superintendent of Schools. In 1885, she married Leo Chapman. He died a year later in San Francisco. Carrie Chapman stayed on in San Francisco and became the first female reporter in the city. In 1890, she married George Catt. At the same time, she began to work for the National American Woman Suffrage Association. In 1892, she succeeded Susan B. Anthony as the NAWSA president. In 1902, she organized the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. She campaigned worldwide for suffrage equality. After the passage of the 19th Amendment, Carrie Chapman Catt continued to be active in politics. She founded the League of Women Voters, published books on suffrage, and lobbied for world peace and child labor laws. [Source: Carrie Chapman Catt Girlhood Home Restoration Project]

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1 Response to “On This Day, 1-9-2009: Common Sense”


  1. January 10, 2009 at 1:02 pm

    I’m a fifth-grade teacher, and an intrical part of teaching civics is providing students with our primary sources: the founding documents. This is critical in understanding what “We the People” really means. Today, as they did over 230 years ago, those documents instill in students the belief that all our voices are important. Everyone of our citizens are given the right to pursue liberty. Futures do not have to be inevitable and “Little voices” can make dramatic impacts on events. That is Thomas Paine’s greatest contribution to our country. His pamphlet, Common Sense, spoke to ALL the voices in the 13 colonies during a time of great fear and indecision. He gave a vast number of citizens a vision of what each could do, 176 days before the Declaration of Independence. A belief that power should radiate from the citizens. That message is still paramount to all our students today. For that pamphlet alone, Paine needs to be recognized everywhere as a intrical part of the American miracle.

    Mark Wilensky,
    author of “The Elementary Common Sense of Thomas Paine: An Interactive Adaptation for All Ages”


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