Thomas Paine was an influential 18th-century writer of essays and pamphlets. Among them were "The Age of Reason," regarding the place of religion in society; "Rights of Man," a piece defending the French Revolution; and "Common Sense," which was published during the American Revolution. "Common Sense," Paine's most influential piece, brought his ideas to a vast audience, swaying (the otherwise undecided) public opinion to the view that independence from the British was a necessity.
Originally born in England, Thomas Paine experienced his share of failures, troubles, and hardship before moving to the future United States of America in 1774. Shortly after he arrived, tensions between England and the colonies reached fever pitch, and this presented Paine's political and propagandist ideas with a ripe audience.
His pamphlet, "Common Sense", is referred to by some historians as "the most incendiary and popular pamphlet of the entire revolutionary era." Paine argued that America should not simply revolt against taxation, but demand independence from Great Britain entirely.
While it likely had little effect on the actual writing of the Declaration of Independence, "Common Sense" forced the issue on the streets, making the colonists see that a grave issue was upon them and that a public discussion was direly needed.