Rate this paper
  • Currently rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
5.00 / 5
Paper Topic:

How did the essay, `The Common Sense` Influence the American Revolution?

Paine 's Common Sense and His Influence in the American Revolution


TOC \o "1-3 " \h \z \u HYPERLINK \l "_Toc8 " Introduction PAGEREF _Toc8 \h 1

HYPERLINK \l "_Toc9 " Humble Beginnings PAGEREF _Toc9 \h 3

HYPERLINK \l "_Toc0 " The Big Leap to America PAGEREF _Toc0 \h 9

HYPERLINK \l "_Toc1 " Political Conditions in Colonial America PAGEREF _Toc1 \h 11

HYPERLINK \l "_Toc2 " The Spark of Common Sense PAGEREF _Toc2 \h 16

HYPERLINK \l "_Toc3 " How Critics Perceive About Common Sense PAGEREF _Toc3 \h 22 p

HYPERLINK \l "_Toc4 " Conclusion PAGEREF _Toc4 \h 24

HYPERLINK \l "_Toc5 " Works Cited PAGEREF _Toc5 \h 25 Paine 's Common Sense and His Influence in the American Revolution


One of the most influential political figures during the American Revolution , Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense , a pamphlet that was dubbed as the most influential factors in convincing colonial leaders to endorse a declaration of independence from Great Britain . Published on January 9 , 1776 , the pamphlet quickly became widely popular , selling a phenomenal number of copies for that time period . This famed 50-page pamphlet more than 500 ,000 copies within a few months . Having sold more copies than any other single publication , this pamphlet paved the way for the Declaration of Independence , unanimously ratified July 4 , 1776 (Encyclopzhdia Britannica Online , 2007 . In his writing , Paine attacked the idea of the monarchy in general and King George III of England in particular , and then made a persuasive impact to push for American independence

Because of this influential writing , Thomas Paine sparked the bitterest public disputes about matters of public importance . Paine enjoyed a reputation , among friends and enemies alike , as an extraordinary citizen . Common Sense contains the first modern use of the terms society ' civil society ' and civilised society ' and is still considered by many an intellectual cornerstone of American democracy Aside from being a writer , Paine was also a prominent political thinker He was twice invited to France , where he helped draft the 1793 constitution and completed a dramatic plea for secularism , The Age of Reason (1794

As our history books dealt Paine over the past several decades , the man still does not quite fit in . Paine ranked himself among the founders of a new Independent World ' but most Americans have not agreed Everyone senses that he is not like the other revolutionaries , not like Franklin , Washington , Adams , or Jefferson . We cannot quite bring ourselves to treat him as one of America 's founders . This neglect is actually astonishing , especially when we consider the breadth of his influence . His most thorough and recent biographer , Englishman John Keane (1995 , in his biography Tom Paine : A Political Life calls Paine the greatest public figure of his generation ' Paine , writes Keane made more noise in the world and excited more attention than such well-known European contemporaries as Adam Smith , Jean-Jacques Rousseau Voltaire , Immanuel Kant , Madame de Stall , Edmund Burke , and Pietro Verri ' His important works - Common Sense , The Rights of Man , and The Age of Reason - became the three most widely read political tracts of the eighteenth century ' His vision of a decent and happy life for ordinary people in this world is still alive and universally relevant . undoubtedly more relevant than that of Marx , the figure most commonly identified with the nineteenth- and twentieth-century political project of bringing dignity and power to the wretched of the earth ' In fact , says Keane , not only is Paine 's bold rejection of tyranny and injustice as far-reaching as that of his nineteenth-century successor but his practical proposals . are actually more radical than Marx 's mainly because they managed to combine breathtaking vision , a humble respect for ordinary folk , and a sober recognition of the complexity of human affairs (p . xiv , x , xiii

Indeed , Paine 's achievements overshadow his character . In view of this this will discuss the person behind the influential Common Sense and try to draw out , in his biography , the events in his life that convinced or inspired him to write this pamphlet . What is his background ? What are the bases for his ideas in Common Sense ? These are just some of the questions we will try to discuss in this to ultimately explain how this political figure was able to influence the American Revolution

Humble Beginnings

Thomas Paine was born in the small market town of Thetford in Norfolk , England . At present , his birthplace honored him with a statue and the Rights of Man public house . He was born January 29 , 1737 to a small Quaker farmer named Joseph Paine and corset-maker Frances Cocke Politically the town was in the pocket of a prominent Whig magnate , the Duke of Grafton , who nominated the two local Members of Parliament (MP The Lent Assizes for the Eastern Circuit were also held there and Paine doubtless witnessed the barbarous penalties meted out to those who defied the law . As researched by Conway (1893 , Thetford resident F .H Millington claimed , Paine grew into boyhood

. in the town (about 2 ,000 inhabitants , [which] possessed a corporation with mayor , aldermen , sword-bearers , macemen , rec . The corporation was a corrupt body , under the dominance of the Duke of Grafton , a prominent member of the Whig government . Both members of Parliament (Hon . C . Fitzroy , and Lord Augustus Fitzroy ) were nominees of Gafton . From Paine 's Rights of Man , it is clear that his native town was the model in his mind when he wrote on charters and corporations The Lent Assizes for the Eastern Circuit were held here , and Paine would be familiar with the procedure and pomp of a court of justice . He would also be familiar with the sight of men and women hung for trivial offences . Thetford was on the main road to London , and was a posting centre (Williamson , quoted in Conway , 1893

Raised as a Quaker on his father 's side , indeed , Paine was particularly aware of the cruelty of many punishments and frequent use of the death penalty , for the sect was in the forefront of opposition to both and while later comments reveal that he found the Quaker life dull and colorless , he remained fond of the exceedingly good moral education it demanded . At his mother 's instructions Paine was confirmed in the Church of England . But he was puzzled by a sermon on redemption read to him by a relative , doubting that God would allow his own son to be killed when a man would be hanged who did such a thing ' and remaining convinced of God 's greater benevolence (Philip 1989 ,

. 4

Despite his seen ability for science and mathematics , Paine was withdrawn from school by his father at the age of 13 to learn the stay-making business , and remained at this task for some five years Having already conceived a desire to see America , however , he doubtless found the trade constricting . More attractive , too , was the naval life a schoolmaster had regaled him with , and at 17 Paine slipped away to join the Terrible (its captain 's name was Death , a privateer engaged against French traders . His father rescued him before the vessel sailed however , and in its next engagement it lost nearly nine-tenths of its crew . It was not the first time fortune would smile upon Paine . Though in 1756 , he apparently joined another privateer , the King of Prussia Paine returned to stay-manufacturing first in London , then Dover , and finally at Sandwich in Kent , where he married in the autumn of 1759 , and possibly also acted briefly as a Methodist lay preacher . Agnes Best (1927 ) noted that Thomas Paine married when he was twenty-two and was married by the rector of St . Peter 's in Sandwich , Kent , to Mary Lambert Unfortunately , within the year his wife died in childbirth . As Best (1927 ) noted , Paine 's father-in-law was also an exciseman and Paine was compared

Like his contemporary Robert Burns , the youth now turned to that occupation as providing a livelihood while at the same time affording an opportunity for study and reflection . I have seldom ' he asserts passed five minutes of my life , however circumstanced , in which I did not acquire some knowledge (Best , 1927 ,

. 14

His father-in-law might have inspired Paine to decide to become an exciseman . For a time he examined brewers ' casks at Grantham and in mid-1764 was appointed to observe smugglers at Alford . Lowly paid , and probably also immersed in his own scientific studies , Paine like many of his colleagues neglected to examine fully all of the goods brought into local warehouses . For passing some without inspection he was discharged in August 1765

Paine now traveled for a time and , though he sued successfully and was reinstated as an exciseman , no suitable post was available for him . He taught English briefly in London , again apparently preaching , and may even have considered becoming an Anglican minister . He also attended scientific lectures at the Royal Society (later telling a friend that he had `seldom passed five minutes of my life , however circumstanced , in which I did not acquire some knowledge . Finally , an excise post came open and after a brief period in Cornwall Paine went to Lewes , Sussex in early 1768 , where he boarded with a Quaker tobacconist . This was an extremely important period in his life . He seems to have been involved in local charitable work . He began to be interested in politics composing an election song for a local Whig candidate for the respectable sum of three guineas . Soon , too , by one account , he began to move away from Whiggism , prompted in the first instance by the too seditious comment by a friend , over a glass of punch after a game of bowls , that Frederick , King of Prussia was the right sort of man for a king , for he has a deal of the devil in him , which led Paine to wonder if a system of government did not exist that did not require a devil . He also began his career as a pamphleteer here . His first work The Case of the Officers of the Excise (1772 , detailed the low wages and arduous duties of excisemen , the temptations to dishonesty this incited and the consequent dangers for revenue collection . Paine 's talents as a writer were already evident : The rich , in ease and affluence , may think I have drawn an unnatural portrait , he proclaimed , adding , but could they descend to the cold regions of want , the circle of polar poverty , they would find their opinions changing with the climate (Keane 1995 ,

. 102

Incidentally , Paine grew interested at the local debating society , the White Hart Evening Club , where he became known as a convivial conversationalist with a taste for oysters and wine . Here , Paine 's comrades elected him General of the Headstrong War ' for his perseverance in a good cause and obstinacy in a bad one , as a radical Quaker friend , Thomas `Clio ' Rickman later put it . His only pronounced vice , in fact , seems to have been a predilection towards vanity Woodward (1945 ) described that

The warm debates at the White Hart were almost invariably on political or economic subjects as shown in the state of English affairs . Paine , on account of his quickness of mind and ready wit and command of logic , was the lion of this little group . He became a local celebrity in a small way . Excisemen were constantly changing posts , going from one part of the country to another , and through them Paine 's reputation for intelligence spread gradually throughout the whole body of the excise (p . 39

Paine married again in 1771 , this time a young Quaker girl , eleven years after his first wife died . Paine married Elizabeth Ollive , the daughter of a tobacconist at Lewes . He took over the tobacco business when his wife 's father died in 1769 , but he was not the man to make a success of it . During the winter of 1772-1773 , he spent some months in London bringing the petition of the excisemen to the notice of members of Parliament , and when he returned to Lewes he found himself heavily in debt , and was forced to leave the town to escape his creditors . This led to his second dismissal from the excise in April 1774 . He succeeded in paying his debts by the sale of the tobacco-shop , but he then found himself penniless , and without employment . After this catastrophe he and his wife agreed to separate . However , his marriage to Ollive had never been consummated , for reasons which the couple always refused to discuss . At all events , they separated , and Paine never again saw his wife , though it is said that after years he sent her money , without letting her know from whom it came (Fennessy 1963 ,

. 18

Returning to London , he followed the `Wilkes and Liberty ' campaign with great interest . He now became acquainted with the writer Oliver Goldsmith and also Benjamin Franklin , whose electrical experiments he admired and to whom he made the famous retort , when Franklin stated `Where liberty is , there is my country ' `Where liberty is not , there is my country ' Franklin saw much promise in Paine and encouraged him to leave for the American colonies , where there was greater scope for his talents . In October 1774 , carrying a letter of introduction from Franklin , Paine set sail for Philadelphia , being one of the countless Britons in these years to seek a new life in America . At age thirty-seven , he had already lived half his life with no hint of the prominence he would achieve (Claeys 1989 ,

. 24

Paine was pushed to leave the land of his birth , not because of his many unsuccesses , with little in his pocket but Franklin 's letter of good will . It is necessary to a proper understanding of his subsequent career to take a glance at the social conditions on which for a time he turned his back . During that time , the reign of George III was a government fraught with bribery pure and simple . Simple in the sinister meaning of the word his critics acknowledged it to be , and his Majesty himself asserted that in his generous bribery he was actuated by a pure attachment to his country , an end which justified any means . Money is still a high power in the world of politics , but the candid politician who should publicly proclaim it as a heaven-sent gift would now recuperate in a sanitarium . Time has changed the technique if not the nature of politicians

The English people suspected that the hard cash which the patriot king ' used in bribing legislators to defeat their will came not from above but from the depths of their own pockets . They demanded an accounting of the civil list , which was refused by the government on the score of delicacy ' Hungry officials of church and state eagerly watched for the crumbs that fell from the king 's table . Paine declared that the English were still in the bondage of feudalism , though there is no body of men more jealous of their privileges than the Commons because they sell them ' All things considered , it is not strange that a man like Paine should develop an extravagant antagonism to the power of the throne . Leaving the disquieted land of his birth , Paine was at last moving in the direction of his inclination . Recommended by Franklin , this emigrant of vast ignorance , shrewdness , and mother wit took with him an accumulation of memories above and below the threshold of consciousness . The agonized cries of tortured prisoners , the sufferings of wounded seamen , the misery and hunger of the helpless poor , the bigotry of piety , the insolence of power--with such inflammable stuff his memory was loaded (Best 1927 ,

. 31

The Big Leap to America

Setting sail to the United States , Paine reached Philadelphia in December 1774 after nine weeks ' voyage . He has barely survived an outbreak of shipboard typhus . Nevertheless , arriving at America gave Paine new hope as Smith (1938 ) wrote

To Paine , Philadelphia symbolized the rich possibilities of America Though the homes of the mechanic and the merchant were not on the same pattern , he could not see the extreme contrasts that had made the British cities a tragic setting . Any enterprising man , regardless of his origin , could hack out a decent and respectable livelihood . Somewhere in this brave new world would surely be a good berth for the new immigrant (p . 13

Originally seeking to open a girls ' school , he instead became editor of a small , the Pennsylvania Magazine with the help of Benjamin Franklin 's letter . He took his editorship seriously and made a great success of The Pennsylvania Magazine . With the second number the subscriptions jumped from six hundred to fifteen hundred . In the early issues Paine 's own articles , contributed under various pseudonyms , dealt largely with practical science - A Mathematical Question Proposed of a New Electrical Machine , Useful and Entertaining Hints He also wrote moralizing essays--Anecdotes of Alexander the Great and Reflections on the Life and Death of Lord Clive . The same motif runs through both essays : How futile is the glory of kings ! How are the mighty fallen ' It is noted that there is an absence in these numbers of articles dealing with political problems . In the growing revolutionary struggle between the colonies and the mother country , the Paine 's publisher was attempting the neutral stratagem of pleasing all sides by pleasing . Nor did the editor wish to upset the apple-cart of his own newly found economic security (Smith , 1938 ,

. 14

To this and other Philadelphia journals he contributed , among other pieces , a defense of modern authors and institutions against the ancient , an important anti-slavery essay at a time (March 1775 ) when such views were uncommon , and articles condemning dueling , British policy in India , the use of titles and cruelty to animals . He also helped to draft a bill incorporating the American Philosophical Society As colonial independence neared , he had already begun to establish that vigorous and independent style of radicalism which would become his trademark . But this was not sufficient to earn a living and poor pay soon forced him to leave the (Philip 1989 ,

. 15

At the beginning of 1775 , political issues were already brewing . The colonists themselves did not look forward to a radically new of things . For more than a hundred years , immature , disunited , and afraid of the neighboring French , they had submitted to the selfish regulations of the British aristocracy . The colonial manufacture of hats , cloth , and wrought iron had been repressed foreign goods in competition with the British had to pay heavy import taxes in the colonies colonial sugar tobacco , cotton , and furs could be exported only to England import and export trade could move only in British or colonial ships

But when the end of the French and Indian Wars , in 1763 , removed the French danger , a thriving country came into conflict with a foreign overlordship burdened by debts and determined on enforcing and elaborating the profitable old arrangements . At first the colonists had sent passionate but respectful protests against the policy that regulated and restrained every detail of their economic life in the interest of English industry . Legalistic spokesmen had rummaged through charters and statutes , to prove in ponderous black and white that British liberties were being violated by Parliament and the ministry Otis , Dickinson , and others had drawn hair-splitting distinctions between external and internal regulation , between direct and indirect taxation and they had yearned for the good old days under the glorious line of Brunswick (Smith , 1938 ,

. 14 . Protests failing shots were fired , East India tea dumped into the ocean but few of the most zealous patriots looked beyond some kind of ultimate reconciliation . Even when the Intolerable Acts of 1774 clamped down upon Massachusetts , only a small minority in the other scattered colonies took the alarm . A conservative Continental Congress gathered at Philadelphia in September and adjourned in October after composing petitions and reluctantly forming a general economic boycott against the oppressor . When Paine landed in Philadelphia a month later , the controversy had simmered down to group discussions on street corners and in taverns

After all , the conflict with England was in the first instance a merchants ' affair , and rubbed most severely at the revenue gates and in shops and warehouses . It seemed to Paine , as he says in Crisis VII , a kind of law-suit , in which I supposed the parties would find a way either to decide or settle it (Smith , 1938 ,

. 15

Political Conditions in Colonial America

In 1775 , Philadelphia was the center of attention in Colonial America The second Continental Congress was in session there during the greater part of the year , and the leaders of the American people might be seen in the streets every day . Everyone wondered what would be the outcome of the controversy between Great Britain and her American Colonies . Most of the sessions of the Congress were held behind closed doors , and the reports of what was done or said at the meetings were garbled by hearsay . But all of them agreed that the Congress had no idea of asserting the independence of the Colonies

The first Continental Congress , which met in September , 1774 , had passed a Declaration of Rights ' which was a memorial to Parliament . This plea was permeated by a spirit of loyalty and friendliness . The Congress requested--but did not demand--the repeal of about twenty acts of Parliament that had to do with American affairs , and which the Congress considered unjust and oppressive . The appeal to Parliament was ineffective . It was not only ineffective the rulers of England considered it insolent and provocative . The mere fact that the Congress had met at all was construed into an insult to the sovereign power

Before the second Continental Congress was convened in May 1775 , the Battle of Lexington had taken place . The war had begun , and an extraordinary situation had developed , for

the Colonies did not want to secede from the British Empire . They did not want to fight the mother country they sought for nothing but a redress of their grievances . The Continental Congress had no power to raise armies--or , at any rate--it had been given no such authority . It was , in effect , a committee of all the Colonies assembled to consider their common problems

The reluctance to secede went back much further . In October , 1765 , the Stamp Act Congress , which was organized to protest against the taxing of the Colonies without their voice or consent , declared that the connection of the Colonies with Great Britain was their great happiness and security ' and that they most ardently desired its perpetual continuance ' In January , 1768 , the Massachusetts Legislature said officially , We cannot justly be suspected of the most distant thought of an independency of Great Britain . Some , we know , have imagined this . but it is so far from the truth that we apprehend the Colonies would refuse it if offered to them , and would even deem it the greatest misfortune to be obliged to accept it ' The first Continental Congress , in its solemn petition to the King , adopted October 26 , 1774 , said : Your royal authority over us and our connection with Great Britain we shall always carefully and zealously endeavor to support and maintain (Gipson 1954 ,

. 95-100

In March 1775 , Benjamin Franklin said in London that he had never heard in America one word in favor of independence , from any person , drunk or sober ' As late as May 1775 , George Washington had a talk with his friend Jonathan Boucher about the possibility of the Colonies separating themselves from the mother country . Washington said , in parting according to Boucher , that if ever [he] heard of his [Washington 's] joining in any such measures , [be] had his leave to set him down for everything wicked (Davis , 1977 ,

. 112

On the other hand , in early May 1775 , Ireland (1998 ) wrote that the Pennsylvania legislature moved in itself to military defense . It authorized an issue of money to cover the Associators ' expenses it urged Associators , now transformed from peaceful boycotters into an armed force , to bear a tender and brotherly regard ' toward those conscientiously scrupulous of bearing arms ' and it encouraged pacifists to provide financial assistance to the Associators cheerfully ' and in Proportion to their abilities ' Pennsylvania 's Quakers , however , moved in the opposite direction . They refused to support armed rebellion against the King . Over time , they took an increasingly intransigent , if not belligerent , stance in opposition to the patriot (Ireland , 1998 ,

. 30

Previously , in December 1774 , the Pennsylvania Meeting for Sufferings (an official voice of the Quaker religious body ) pressured Quaker legislators to oppose the Association . In January 1775 , the Meeting for Sufferings ' took a position that historian Richard Bauman (1971 has called tendentious , defiant , and provocative ' It condemned both the Continental Congress and Congress 's support of an economic boycott (i .e , the Association ) as repugnant to the peaceable Principles of our Christian Profession ' and it made disaffection to the King a matter for discipline (p . 147-148

In January 1776 , as Thomas Paine 's Common Sense urged to question the King and the British connection , the Quaker Meeting for Sufferings took a defiant stand . It blamed the current calamities on sin , praised the past government under the King , and prohibited writing or acting in a way designed to break the connection with Great Britain . In the fall of 1776 , the Yearly Meeting took the final step toward an outright break with the patriots . It forbade Quakers in good standing with the Meeting from having any Share in the Authority and Powers of Government , from participating in the militia , or from paying fines in lieu of that service (Bauman 1971 ,

. 161

After the Battle of Bunker Hill , Thomas Jefferson , who became the author of the Declaration of Independence , wrote to a kinsman that he was looking with fondness toward a reconciliation with Great Britain ' On July 6 , 1775 , the second Continental Congress adopted a declaration which set forth the Colonial grievances . In this important document these words appear : Lest this declaration should disquiet the minds of our friends and fellow-subjects in any part of the Empire , we assure them that we mean not to dissolve that union which has so long and so happily subsisted between us , and which we sincerely wish to see restored ' In one year , less two days , after that declaration , the second Continental Congress parted company with the British Empire

As the struggle between the American colonies and Great Britain accelerated and war broke out at Lexington and Concord , Paine came to a group of advocates of the American cause , including John Adams , Benjamin Rush , Thomas Young , and James Cannon . By the end of 1775 , these men had concluded that American independence was inevitable . Rush suggested that Paine write a pamphlet supporting the idea , though he urged him to avoid using the word itself so as to avoid frightening those who believed open avowal of independence would unleash a movement for democratic change within the colonies . Thus , dominant American antislavery rhetoric came to reflect regular characteristics : the Golden Rule , the displeasure of God , natural law as expressed by John Locke , the cult of sensibility and the portrayal of America as corrupt and guilty . The theme of American guilt became the defining one at a time of the increasing articulation by patriots that America was already pure , even given the existence of slavery , and needed only to reject the Old World as its corrupting influence . The continuance of the slave trade was put at British feet , and thus served to exempt colonial Americans from taking on other antislavery actions on a colony-wide or national level (Bradley , 1998 ,

. 97

It may be clearly seen that the movement for American independence began reluctantly , and late . But when it was once on its way it gathered mass and momentum and went swiftly . It had its origin in many motives and currents of thought , some of them wholly unrelated to the others , and this possibly accounts for its tardiness . Meanwhile , Paine was an active participant on the side of the colonists in the American War of Independence and acted as propagandist (notably helping to keep the Revolutionary army together through the winter of 1776 , soldier and clerk to the Assembly of Pennsylvania . Crucially , he was instrumental in setting up a national bank in to finance the war effort . However having seen his ideas for America come to fruition , and wishing to further his interest in the invention of an iron bridge , he returned to Europe in 1787 , whereupon he began to engage with the emerging radicalism (Gingell 2000 ,

. 194

The Spark of Common Sense

Paine did not initially favor the violent separation of the colonies from Britain . But when the British fired upon a demonstration at Lexington in April 1775 , and certainly by late 1775 , or barely a year after his arrival , he concluded that independence was inevitable . The cause of separation became soon and long associated with his name and the force of his arguments . The pattern of Paine 's political career , as shown , was already laid : what others hesitantly and often reluctantly felt , he stated unequivocally and in a language all could comprehend Much of the autumn of 1775 was devoted to writing Common Sense , which burst from the press with an effect which has rarely been produced by types and in any age or country , as his friend Benjamin Rush put it . the less Paine 's authorship remained unknown at first , partly because he had resided only briefly in the colonies and did not want this to prejudice his readers . Franklin , in fact , was widely believed to have written the piece , though when a loyalist lady denounced him for using the phrase the royal brute of Britain ' to describe George III Franklin denied that he would have so dishonored the animal world (Claeys 1989 ,

. 25

However , from the moment he began his public career his one aim in life was to do good to his fellowman

My motive and object in all my political works , beginning with Common Sense , the first work I ever published , have been to rescue man from tyranny and false systems and false principles of government , and enable him to be free and establish government for himself (Paine in his Letter to the Mayor of Philadelphia , quoted by Fast

Beyond it all , Common Sense inevitably exploded amidst an already volatile debate about colonial rights , imperial arbitrariness , and the possibility of resistance to British rule . American resentment had been instigated primarily by the passage of stamp duties on legal and other documents in 1765 , which brought rioting and boycotts of British goods In the late 1760s protest escalated in reaction to attempts to curtail the powers of colonial assemblies and to increase colonial revenues . The Wilkes case fuelled unrest . This is further worsened by the British policy towards Ireland and India also seemed to some to betray the designs of ministerial tyranny . The failure of petitioning increased disappointments and eroded affections . More widely discussed as early as 1770- 1771 was armed resistance , and the view that colonial government was dissolving and might better be replaced by native rule . Independence was broached , though not widely supported , by 1772 , the Dutch model being occasionally suggested . By 1774 the monarch , but a few years earlier the focus of hopes for respite from ministerial intrigue , had himself become a potent symbol of despotism . At Lexington and Concord in mid-1775 revolt finally became war (Maier 1972 ,

. 67

Moreover , the colonists ' cause was portrayed primarily in terms of a country or Commonwealth ' language of resistance to executive tyranny British excesses , such as the Stamp Act , were construed as the arbitrary acts of a government whose patronage and corruption demanded further taxation from a population denied the right of representation in Parliament . American liberties were infringed upon both because Parliament was unrepresentative and because colonial policy was dictated more by the monarchy than the Commons

Thus , when Common Sense was published it was considered as the most important contribution to the new political ideal , which appeared anonymously in Philadelphia on January 10 , 1776 . Hiding behind the pen name An Englishman , this pamphlet was immediately perceived as being essentially practical , for it was fortuitously published the same day as reports of George III 's hostile speech opening the new session of parliament . The pamphlet owed something to local conditions . Popular demand for greater equality was more widespread in Pennsylvania and consequently here more than elsewhere the revolution was viewed as a struggle between the people (chiefly western settlers and the laboring classes of Philadelphia , the colonies ' largest city ) and an entrenched Quaker and Presbyterian oligarchy which opposed independence . Paine himself had not favored independence on arriving in America in late 1774 and recalled that it was then generally regarded as a kind of treason ' to renounce attachment to Britain . The immediate pretext for declaring independence for Paine was the Battle of Lexington , which took place on April 19 , 1775 , and which he felt finally proved that the compact between the colonists and Britain had been broken . Moreover during the suspension of the old governments in America , both prior to and at the breaking out of hostilities ' Paine later wrote , I was struck with the and decorum with which everything was conducted and impressed with the idea , that a little more than what society naturally performed , was all the government that was necessary , and that monarchy and aristocracy were frauds and impositions upon mankind This led him to an appreciation of the possibility of independence as well as the wider liberty promised by a new form of government (Paine 1997 ,

. 26

After a brief introduction trumpeting the American struggle as in great measure the cause of all mankind , Common Sense opened by considering the Origin and Design of Government in General , With Concise Remarks on the English Constitution . Government had to be considered as separate from society , Paine began . Society was produced by our wants and government by our wickedness the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections , the latter negatively by restraining our vices . Government therefore was merely a necessary evil , a badge of lost innocence ' symbolizing the loss of primitive natural liberty . theless , since not all heeded the dictates of conscience , government was required to provide and security Initially all had legislated and , while representation was later necessary , the strength of government , and the happiness of the governed ' always depended upon the common interest of both representatives and represented (Paine 1997 , 2-5

Moving to consider the so much boasted Constitution of England Paine argued that this consisted of three segments , the remains of monarchical tyranny in the person of the king , the remains of aristocratical tyranny in the persons of the peers ' and the new Republican materials , in the persons of the Commons . The freedom of England , Paine insisted , depended solely on the virtue of the latter for in a constitutional sense ' neither king nor peers were dedicated to freedom . Denying the central Whig contention that each part balanced the others , Paine argued that the Commons did not , for example , check the king , since this presumed that they were wiser than the monarch and ignored the fact that the king could obstruct bills of the Commons . But the monarchy itself , in any case , was an exceedingly ridiculous institution . Kings were governed . Moreover , how could a wise people ever have given a king such powers , while always mistrusting their exercise ? In fact the strongest or overbearing ' part of the constitution simply dominated and at present this was the monarchy . If the king was less oppressive in England than elsewhere , this was only because of the power of parliament , not the system of government itself (Paine 1997 ,

. 5-7

Paine 's second section , Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession pursued this attack by examining the origins of kingship . Created equal mankind at first had no kings and thus no wars , for it were the pride of kings which throws mankind into confusion . Kingship had originated with the heathens , from which it was copied by the Jews , who had survived for some 3 ,000 years (on the Mosaic account ) as a kind of Republic . Quoting at length from the biblical book of Samuel , Paine argued that even God himself had vainly opposed the Jewish request for a king . Eventually the office became hereditary , but for Paine - and this was a vital part of his argument - this was intrinsically unjust , for no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever . Many kings had originally been mere robbers who imposed their rule by force . Thus , had William the Conqueror ascended to the English throne , and consequently the antiquity of English monarchy ' would not bear looking into . Once they had inherited their positions , moreover , monarchs grew insolent and oblivious to the needs of their subjects . Some perched precariously upon the throne as children others steadied themselves upon it well into infirmity . Succession crises often provoked bloody civil wars . All that was valuable in the English constitution hence derived from the right of electing the Commons , and even here the king had frequently interfered The sole duties of the king , in fact , seemed to be waging war and bestowing patronage . With piercing condemnation Paine insisted that one honest man was worth more to society than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived (Paine 1997 ,

. 8-12

Turning to the relations between the American colonies and England Paine declared the debate over , with only arms as the last resource to decide the contest . The choice lay with the king , but the colonists had accepted the challenge , and therein began a new era for politics . a new method of thinking . Previously all parties had agreed upon remaining united with Britain , disputing only the means of so doing . But the possibility of reconciliation had now disappeared . It was no longer necessary to stress the natural ties between the colonies and Britain . Britain 's enemies , like France and Spain , would befriend America , who was linked to all Europe by emigration , not only to England . American commerce could survive without British protection and indeed would thrive as long as eating is the custom of Europe Since , as Paine put it , our plan is commerce , Britain 's opposition to many continental powers in fact diminished American trade and thus its prosperity . TIS TIME TO PART ' was the only conclusion which could be drawn (Paine 1997 ,

. 17-22

The only grounds to fear independence , then , lay in the colonists insufficient preparations for liberty . Paine therefore proposed that each colony annually elect an assembly headed by a president and concerned only with domestic policy . These assemblies would be answerable to a Continental Congress composed of at least thirty delegates from each colony , from amongst whom a President would be chosen . To found this government , a continental conference ' of twenty-six members of Congress plus two members from each provincial convention and five other representatives at large was to be elected These would frame a Continental Charter ' establishing the number and authority of the members of congress and assembly and guaranteeing freedom of religion and property , and thereafter dissolve itself (Paine 1997 ,

. 30

Paine then turned to consider other implications of independence . For the price of a small but not inconvenient national debt America could build a navy sufficient for its protection . Its need for defense in turn demanded speedy independence , for the growth of commerce diminished the spirit both of patriotism and military defense , and indeed had already sapped Britain 's strength (Paine 1997 ,

. 40 . Fifty years Paine predicted , would increase of trade and population that would in turn generate many contending interests which did not yet exist . Common Sense then concluded with a plea for religious toleration and a summary of some of the main grounds for immediate independence . More importantly , Paine outlined a novel vision of the historical importance of the American Revolution . We have it in our power ' he wrote , to begin the world over again ' In a world overrun with oppression America alone would be the home of freedom , an asylum for mankind (Paine 1997 ,

. 33

Despite the success of Common Sense , Paine gained nothing from it , since he paid the costs of publication (about ?40 ) himself , and further donated the copyright to the colonists ' struggle . It was to set a pattern for his entire career , for Paine was usually too proud and too idealistic to accept money for doing what he did best , and was consequently rarely well off . As the cause of independence gathered steam , Paine assailed public opinion in Pennsylvania and New York , and warned against accepting prospective English peace proposals . Closely associated with Jefferson for a time , he endeavored to have an anti-slavery clause inserted into the Declaration of Independence , but it was withdrawn after objections by Georgia , South Carolina and various northern slave suppliers

How Critics Perceive About Common Sense

One of Thomas Paine 's arch-critic was John Adams when he remarked in 1805 that their time couldn 't be the Age of Reason because it had been dominated by Thomas Paine . Adams doubted whether any man in the world has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs for the last thirty years than Tom Paine ' But this influence was far from a good thing Indeed , said Adams , there can be no severer satyr on the age . For such a mongrel between pig and puppy , begotten by a wild boar on a bitch wolf , never before in any age of the world was suffered by the poltroonery of mankind , to run through such a career of mischief . Call it then the Age of Paine (Adams , quoted by Woods 2005 ,

. 204-206

It was obvious that Adams resented Paine received much of the credit for converting Americans to the cause of independence , later claimed that Common Sense was simply a tolerable summary of the argument which I had been repeating again and again in Congress for nine months (Butterfield 1961 ,

. 333 . Nothing in it was new , Adams believed except the phrases , suitable for an emigrant from New Gate , such as `the royal brute of England ' To some extent , Adams was correct . What was unique in Paine was not so much the originality of his ideas but his mode of expressing them . He was the pioneer of a new style of political writing designed to extend political discussion beyond the narrow bounds of the eighteenth century 's political nation ' He assumed knowledge of no authority but the Bible and avoided the florid language common in pamphlets addressed to educated readers . His literary style conveyed the same democratic message as his political argument--anyone could grasp the nature of politics and government . All it required was common sense .Also , when Jefferson penned a majestic draft that captured the hopes of Americans who shared the dream that independence , in the words of Thomas Paine 's Common Sense , Adams opposed to the idea . He subsequently remarked that the American Revolution had been made in the fifteen years before the outbreak of the war in 1775 , the period when the colonists filial affection ' toward Great Britain terminated . As far as he was concerned , severing ties with Britain was the crux of the matter . 28 He did not want great change . Yet Adams sought some change . He embraced republicanism , the belief that power ultimately rested with the citizenry , and made clear his opposition to monarchy and aristocratical rule (Ferling 2004 ,

. 25

Another critic , Isaac Kramnick (1990 ) has seen Common Sense as the work of an English bourgeois radical ' who , after less than a year in America , saw the new world as the means of overthrowing the corrupt aristocracy of the old and replacing it with a bourgeois or middle-class social and political . Barring minor problems arising from the anachronistic use of `bourgeois , this interpretation is plausible provided it concedes Paine 's republican suspicion of commerce and takes `middle class ' to encompass small farmers , merchants , tradesmen and artisans , which is a somewhat wider definition than that usually given to `middling s ' in late eighteenth-century Britain . theless this deemed as a less accurate of Paine 's views in the 1790s , when a wider suffrage was advocated and Paine had become less suspicious of the politics of the laboring poor


Common Sense may not be Thomas Paine 's new thoughts , but he did set forth in lucid prose much of what constituted radical , enlightened American thinking during the last quarter of the eighteenth century Like fellow radical Thomas Jefferson , Paine optimistically believed that every person had a natural moral or social sense that compelled him to reach out to others . Indeed , both he and Jefferson thought that the natural sociability of people might replace much of governmental authority . If only the natural moral tendencies of people to love and care for one another were allowed to flow freely , unclogged by the artificial interference of government , particularly monarchical government , Paine and other optimistic republicans believed , society would hold itself together and prosper

Unlike liberals of our time , Paine and other liberal-minded thinkers of the eighteenth century tended to see society as beneficent and government as malevolent . Social honors , social distinctions perquisites of office , business contracts , legal privileges and monopolies , even excessive property and wealth of various sorts - indeed all social inequities and deprivations - seemed to flow from connections to government , in the end from connections to monarchical government . Society ' wrote Paine in a brilliant summary of this liberal view in the opening paragraph of Common Sense , is produced by our wants and government by our wickedness ' Society promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections ' government negatively by restraining our vices ' Society encourages intercourse ' government creates distinctions ' The emerging liberal Jeffersonian view that the least government was the best was based on such a hopeful belief in the natural harmony of society (Foner 1968 ,

br 4

To wit , Paine went further to promote radicalism . In that new and better world that Paine and some other revolutionaries envisioned , war itself might be abolished . Just as enlightened liberal politicians sought a new kind of republican domestic politics that would end tyranny , so too did many of them seek a new kind of international republican politics that would promote peace among nations . Paine very much shared this enlightened international vision

What sets Paine above the people who made the American Revolution was that had a remarkable career than Paine , even though he always remained something of an outsider in America . When Franklin remarked to Paine , Where liberty is , there is my country ' Paine replied , Where liberty is not , there is my country (Keane ,

. xiii . Thus , Paine 's exemplary influence on American events was acknowledged by friends and opponents alike , but after his death he was excluded from the group of revolutionary leaders immortalized in American popular culture . His memory was kept alive primarily by succeeding generations of radicals who rediscovered him again and again as a symbol of revolutionary internationalism , free thinking , and defiance of existing institutions

Works Cited

Bauman , Richard . For the Reputation of Truth : Politics , Religion , and Conflict Among the Pennsylvania Quakers , 1750-1800 , Baltimore , Maryland Johns Hopkins Press , 1971

Best , Mary Agnes . Thomas Paine , Prophet and Martyr of Democracy . New York : Harcourt , Brace Company , 1927

Bradley , Patricia . Slavery , Propaganda , and the American Revolution Jackson , MS : University Press of Mississippi , 1998

Brunhouse , Robert L . The Counter-Revolution in Pennsylvania , 1776-1790 Harrisburg , PA : Pennsylvania Historical Commission , 1942

Butterfield , Lyman (ed . Adams Diary and Autobiography vol . 3 Cambridge , MA : Harvard University Press , 1961

Claeys , Gregory . Thomas Paine : Social and Political Thought .Florence KY : Routledge , 1989

Conway , Moncure Daniel . The Life of Thomas Paine with a History of his Literary , Political and Religious Career in America , France and England New York : Knickerbocker Press , 1893 . Thomas Paine National Historical Association . 2 May 2007 br

Davis , Richard Beale . Southern Writing of the Revolutionary Period C 1760-1790 ' Early American Literature 12 .2 (1977 : 107-120

Fast , Howard . Introduction to the Rights of Man . Trussel . 2 May 2007

Fennessy , R . R . Burke , Paine , and the Rights of Man : A Difference of Political Opinion . The Hague : Martinus Nijhoff , 1963

Ferling , John (ed . Adams vs . Jefferson : The Tumultuous Election of 1800 . New York : Oxford University Press , 2004

Foner , Philip S (ed . The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine , New York Citadel Press , 1968

Gingell , John . Modern Political Thought : A Reader . London : Routledge 2000

Gipson , Lawrence Henry . The Coming of the Revolution , 1763-1775 . 1st ed New York : Harper , 1954

Ireland , Owen S . Bucks County ' Beyond Philadelphia ? The American Revolution in the Pennsylvania Hinterland . Ed . John B . Frantz and William Pencak . University Park , PA : Pennsylvania State University Press , 1998

Keane , John . Tom Paine , a Political Life , NY : Grove Press , 1995

Kramnick , Isaac . Republicanism and Bourgeois Radicalism : Political Ideology in late Eighteenth Century England and America , Ithaca , NY Cornell University Press , 1990

Maier , Pauline . From Resistance to Revolution : Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain , 1765-1776 . New York Knopf , 1972

Paine , Thomas . Common Sense . Mineola , NY : Dover Publications , 1997

Paine , Thomas . Encyclopzhdia Britannica . 2007 . Encyclopzhdia Britannica Online . 2 May 2007

Philp , Mark . Paine . Past Masters Series . Oxford : Oxford University Press , 1989

Smith , Frank . Thomas Paine : Liberator . New York : Frederick A . Stokes

Wood , Gordon S . Revolutionary Characters : What Made the Founders Different . East Rutherford , NJ : Penguin Group (USA ) Incorporated , 2006

Woodward , W . E . Tom Paine : America 's Godfather , 1737-1809 . New York : E br

. Dutton , 1945


PAGE 1 ...

Not the Essay You're looking for? Get a custom essay (only for $12.99)