Thomas paine’s Common Sense is the most brilliant pamphlet written during the American Revolution, and one of the most brilliant pamphlets ever written in the English language. How it could have been produced by the bankrupt Quaker corset-maker, the sometime teacher, preacher, and grocer, and twice-dismissed excise officer who happened to catch Benjamin Franklin’s attention in England and who arrived in America only fourteen months before Common Sense was published is nothing one can explain without explaining genius itself. For it is a work of genius—slapdash as it is, rambling as it is, crude as it is. It “burst from the press,” Benjamin Rush wrote, “with an effect which has rarely been produced by types and papers in any age or country.” Its effect, Franklin said, was “prodigious.” It touched some extraordinarily sensitive nerve in American political awareness in the confusing period in which it appeared.