Historians always note the great impact of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense in 1776, and critics generally agree in calling it “one of the most brilliant pamphlets ever written in the English language.” Yet, despite the frequency of these claims, scholars rarely bring them together as mutually informing insights or controlling premises. 1 On the one side, the twin appeals of the pamphlet—the historical assertion of immediate impact and the literary assessment of timeless merit—make it an extraordinary source for gauging how Americans think about themselves and their country, then and now. On the other side, the same unique combination of instant effect and lasting influence welcomes rhetorical analysis, turning Common Sense into a seminal text for thinking about “the art of persuasion” in American life. 2 One can go further. Precisely how the pamphlet persuades its readers is an object lesson in the workings of modern democratic culture, and the way Americans have absorbed it into collective or national memory remains an untold story in ideological formations.