Common Sense By Thomas Paine Essay, Research Paper
Common Sense by Thomas Paine caused an immediate declaration of independence, assuming a special moral obligation of America to the rest of the world. Not long after publication, the spirit of Paine’s argument was shown in the American Declaration of Independence Paine’s goal in his infamous pamphlet, Common Sense, is to inspire and motivate the pro-revolutionaries and bring those with doubts to the cause by betraying the king and eliminating arguments for reconciliation. He uses the cultural assumptions of the Revolutionary War era, biblical references, historical references, and references to current events to logically argue for the complete separation of the colonies and England. Paine begins drawing a distinct boundary between society and government: “Society is 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.” Paine promotes government in the least sense. This might have encouraged pro-revolutionaries to eliminate the oppression of the British government. For Paine, government exists only because virtue fails to restrain our negative impulses. This point is illustrated in an imaginary village in the wilderness. As the size of a colony increases so does the trouble that confronts the colonists and eventually they must form a government to provide freedom and security. This new government would be made of representatives who will do the right thing if they listen to the simple voice of nature and reason. Most Americans could relate to this because most of them lived in rural communities. America at the time was much closer to this natural state than Britain. Next, Paine points out the evils of the English Constitution, which he says is nearly a mesh of monarchical tyranny and republicanism, and logically dispels the idea of the existence of checks and balances in the English Constitution. The English Constitution is a poor excuse for republican government because the king has hardly any power at all and because the freedom of England depends on the questionable virtue of the members of House of Commons. The idea that the king needs to be checked implies that he is not to be trusted and the power of the king to withhold funding eliminates the House of Common’s power to check him. This says Paine is a “mere absurdity.” The king s power cannot be from God as all kings claim, because his power would then not need to be checked. Thus he gives us reason not to go back to the rule of the English Constitution. It can afford the colonists no protection from the king. Paine separates his audience from the king of England by irreverently smashing the divine right of kings by compiling biblical, scientific and historical references into a logical argument. In a biblical context, Paine says that mankind was set equal in the order of creation; therefore, the distinction of king and subjects is an unnatural order. Paine tells his audience about the first Jewish king. The Jews asked of Gideon, “that your children and your children’s children shall reign over us forever.” The appointment of a king was a sin because the only true king over them was God. Paine explains that kings conveniently leave out this part of the bible when they claim that they have a divine right to be king. The imposition of a hereditary monarchy on the Jewish people was oppressive on future generations for even if the first deserved to be honored; his descendents will inevitably be less deserving of the honor. To those who have doubts about the war and those who prefer reconciliation, Paine answers and disproves all of their arguments with,”…nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense.” He asks his readers to take the facts and use their reason to come to an enlarged view. The idea that through one’s natural powers of reasoning, one can learn the truth is an Enlightenment theme that was very popular at the time. It has been said that hereditary monarchy prevents civil war. Paine dispels this myth with a historical fact that cannot be disputed. From the time of William the Conqueror there were eight civil wars and nineteen revolts. Not only do kings not prevent civil wars, says Paine, but also they are the cause. To those who say that America has flourished by and will continue to flourish by a connection to Britain, Paine again recounts historical fact. Britain has protected the colonies and traded with them but only when it served Britain. If it were not for Britain’s wars, America would not have been at war with Spain or France. To those who say, “but Britain is the parent country,” Paine gives a logical argument against the parent country theory. First, most of the inhabitants of the colonies are not of English but European descent. Second, they did not flee a mother but a tyrannous monster. Third, if the argument holds true, then by all rights, England should be a territory of France because William the Conqueror was French. Fourth, the distance between America and Britain is proof that the Almighty meant to open sanctuary to the persecuted from whom they would need no protection if Britain were their mother.
Paine characterizes those who defend the doctrine of reconciliation as interested men who are not to be trusted, weak men who cannot see, prejudiced men who will not see, or moderate men who think better of Europe than it deserves. By characterizing the supporter of reconciliation in this way, Paine is making his reader choose a side. He makes those who support reconciliation look like fools. Then, so as not to completely remove them, he gives them something to feel guilty about when he asks if they would be so approving of Britain if they were in the place of someone who lost everything to the plundering British army. To those who have suffered at the hands of British soldiers and still call for reconciliation he characterizes them as cowards, giving this group of readers nowhere to hide. They are either revolutionaries or cowards. Paine makes an attempt to encourage those who fight for liberty and shame those who do not into doing so. Paine imparts a sense of need to the war for which the price of failure is serious and long lasting. He tells us personally that April 19, 1775, the battle of Bunker Hill, was the day that he decided to reject the king of England forever. This personal note perhaps creates a bandwagon effect. He maintains that American subjection to British rule cannot last. He again offers natural evidence of the separation nature intended to be between Britain and America: “In no instance hath nature made the satellite larger than its planet,” referring to the relative size of America to Britain. Paine puts the reader in a situation from which the only solution is to fight. He says that if the war is reconciled, the king will at first give a few concessions such as repealing a few offensive laws, but at a later time there is nothing to stop him from making the colonies “as low and humble as possible.” He asks his reader, “Is the power who is jealous of our prosperity, a proper power to govern us?” To this he says no and if you say the same, you are for independence. An inevitable result of some reconciliation is that revolt will break out, says Paine. For every day of delay there is an open door to some opportunist who will overthrow the British and crown himself king, Says Paine. This statement plants fear in the minds of his audience, and then he offers a solution. Only a local government that represents the people can prevent a revolt because too many have suffered under British cruelty. To those who have fears about the result of independence, he offers a plan for a sound republican government over which the only king is God. This claim would seem agreeable to all his audience. In conclusion, Paine asserts that, “freedom hath been hunted around the globe. Asia and Africa have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! Receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.” Thus he states the purpose of America to his audience. He gives America an identity and a purpose of its own; one that is distinct and separate from Britain. Using historical references, cultural assumptions, references to current events, and biblical references, Thomas Paine attempts to inspire revolutionaries and convert the rest to fight for liberty in “Common Sense.” He villainies the king so that he is a man who must be opposed and dispels all thoughts of reconciliation. The reader of Common Sense is given no other solution than to fight the British. On the opposing angle, there was Charles Inglis , The True Interest of America Impartially Stated, he felt that if the colonists reconciled with Great Britain then there would be inevitable peace. He states, By a Reconciliation with Great-Britain, Peace – that fairest offspring and gift of Heaven – will be restored. Inglis also states that if we were to go to war with Great Britain then the results of failure would be unbelievably harsh and that if we were to declare independence from Great Britain we would be left without any assistance from those in England. He concludes his writing with the following excerpt: America is far from being yet in a desperate situation. I am confident she may obtain honourable and advantageous terms from Great-Britain. A few years of peace will soon retrieve all her losses. She will rapidly advance to a state of maturity, whereby she may not only repay the parent state amply for all past benefits; but also lay under the greatest obligations. . . In my opinion, I feel that Thomas Paine wrote a much better and influential piece of writing. It was most likely easy reading for the uneducated people of that time period. I enjoyed reading it a lot more the Charles Inglis document, because it was a lot easier to comprehend and I got a lot more out of it. So basically, I believe that Thomas Paine s; Common Sense inspired more colonists then Charles Inglis , The True Interest of America Impartially Stated.