Common Sense and the Revolution in Maryland


Thomas PaineIn 1776, Thomas Paine, sensing the increased American spirit of rebellion following the Boston Tea Party, published his ideas on American independence in a pamphlet called Common Sense. Paine challenged commonly held beliefs about the relationship between the American colonies and Great Britain. He not only argued that the colonies had the right to revolt against a government that taxed them without representation, but that there was no reason for the American colonies to remain dependent upon Great Britain. 

I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation, to show, a single advantage that this continent can reap, by being connected with Great Britain. I repeat the challenge, not a single advantage is derived. Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe, and our imported goods must be paid for buy them where we will.

But the injuries and disadvantages we sustain by that connection, are without number; and our duty to mankind I at large, as well as to ourselves, instruct us to renounce the alliance: Because, any submission to, or dependance on Great Britain, tends directly to involve this continent in European wars and quarrels; and sets us at variance with nations, who would otherwise seek our friendship, and against whom, we have neither anger nor complaint As Europe is our market for trade, we ought to form no partial connection with any part of it. It is the true interest of America to steer clear of European contentions, which she never can do, while by her dependance on Britain, she is made the make-weight in the scale of British politics.

Common Sense was widely circulated throughout the American colonies. Written in a prose that sparked debate in taverns and street corners, Common Sense serves as an early example of the influence of the colonial press on public opinion. 

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades K-4:

Topic 3: The History of the United States: Democratic Principles and Values and the People from Many Cultures Who Contributed to Its Cultural, Economic, and Political Heritage

STANDARD 4: How democratic values came to be, and how they have been exemplified by people, events, and symbols. 

Standard 4A: The student understands how the United States government was formed and the nationís basic democratic principles set forth in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. 

K-4: Explain that the U.S. government was formed by English colonists who fought for independence from England. [Explain causes and consequences] 
3-4: Identify and explain the basic principles that Americans set forth in the documents that declared the nationís independence from England (the Declaration of Independence) and that created the new nationís government (U.S. Constitution). [Demonstrate and explain the influence of ideas] 

Standard 4B: The student understands ordinary people who have exemplified values and principles of American democracy. 

K-4: Identify ordinary people who have believed in the fundamental democratic values such as justice, truth, equality, the rights of the individual, and responsibility for the common good, and explain their significance. [Assess the importance of the individual in history] 

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION: Common sense; addressed to the inhabitants of America, on the following interesting subjects. I. Of the origin and design of government in general, with concise remarks on the English Constitution. II. Of monarchy and hereditary succession. III. Thoughts on the present state of American affairs. IV. Of the present ability of America, with some miscellaneous reflexions
    AUTHOR: Thomas Paine (1737Ė1809)
    CREATED/PUBLISHED: Philadelphia: printed. And sold by W. and T. Bradford [1776];, 1999

  2. DESCRIPTION: Petition to the King from Congress, known as the Olive Branch Petition. 
    CREATED/PUBLISHED: July 8, 1775.
    SOURCE: Documents for the Classroom Series, MSA SC 2221-2-15

  3. DESCRIPTION: Declaration of Independence
    SOURCE: National Archives

  4. DESCRIPTION:  Constitution of Maryland, printed first draft.
    NOTES: From John Dickinson's papers. 
    SOURCE: Documents for the Classroom Series, MSA SC 2221-4-7
    REPOSITORY: Original owned by the Pennsylvania Historical Society

  5. DESCRIPTION: Declaration of Rights and Constitution of Maryland, as adopted by the 9th Convention, August-November, 1776
    NOTES: Text taken from Hansonís Laws of Maryland, 1787.
    SOURCE: Documents for the Classroom Series, MSA SC 2221-4-8
    REPOSITORY: Maryland State Archives

  6. DESCRIPTION: Mary Catherine Goddard's printing of the Declaration of Independence, Baltimore, 1777.
    CREATED/PUBLISHED: Baltimore, 1777
    SOURCE: Documents for the Classroom Series, MSA SC 2221-2-19 

Additional Media Resources

Liberty! The American Revolution. From PBS

Thomas Paine: Citizen of the World. From the BBC

Declaring Independence: Drafting the Documents. Online exhibition from the Library of Congress.

Additional Instructional Resources

From Indignant Protest to Hesitant Revolutionaries: Maryland and the American Revolution, 1765-1776, MSA SC 2221-1-2: Includes issues of the Maryland Gazette at the time of the Stamp Act Crisis. Also includes the account of the burning of the Peggy Stewart, the Olive Branch Petition signed by three of Maryland's signers of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson's original draft of the Declaration of Independence, and letters from a Maryland soldier at the Battle of Long Island.

All the News, 1765-1775, MSA SC 2221-1-21. Events leading to the American Revolution are seen through news reports in the Maryland Gazette. Samuel Chase's broadside which the Gazette refused to print is included. The newspapers are also an excellent source for the study of eighteenth century life.

Writing It All Down: The Art of Constitution Making for the State and the Nation, 1776-1833  MSA SC 2221-1-4
Includes documents leading to the Maryland Declaration of Rights and the first State Constitution, as well as those which relate to Maryland's role in the creation and ratification of the proposed first twelve amendments to the U.S. Constitution (two were never ratified). It traces the subsequent definition of such individual rights as the right to hold office by non-Christians as defined by constitutional amendment (the Jew Bill) and due process as defined by the courts (Barron v. Baltimore).

A Multitude of Amendments, Alterations and Additions. From the National Park Service, Independence National Historical Park.

Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789. From American Memory.

Common Sense Lesson Plan. From the New York Historical Society

Secondary Resources

Bonwick, C.C. "An English Audience for American Revolutionary Pamphlets." The Historical Journal, Vol. 19, No. 2. (Jun., 1976): 355-374. 

Ferguson, Robert A. "The Commonalities of Common Sense." The William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd Ser., Vol. 57, No. 3. (Jul., 2000): 465-504. 

Greene, Jack P. "Paine, America, and the 'Modernization' of Political Consciousness." Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 93, No. 1. (Spring, 1978): 73-92. 

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Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Nancy Bramucci.


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