Impact of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense

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18/05/20 History Reference this

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Common Sense Analysis Paper

 A fascinated man, Thomas Paine, at age 37, sailed from England for a new start in America.  Paine left behind a career in corset making, privateering, tax collecting, teaching, political activism, writing and merchandising[1].  However, Paine brought with him a unique letter of introduction penned by no other than Benjamin Franklin.  By mid-January 1775 in America, Paine had secured employment with The Pennsylvania Magazine, first as a writer and then as the journal’s editor within a month1.  Paine left his job with The Pennsylvania Magazine in October to pursue in writing what Benjamin Franklin called “a history of the present transactions” between Great Britain and the American colonies1.  With all the adventures Paine was facing, the relationship with Great Britain and the American colonies was not improving.  Thus, leading Thomas Paine to write a pamphlet he titled Common Sense

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The pamphlet Common Sense by Thomas Paine that was published and distributed, is an important contribution to American history because, by the unique sermon-like persuasive language, Thomas Paine uses, he helped exemplify the significance of the British rule tyranny to the American colonies that also helped influence those not sure of declaring independence to support the individuals who favored declaring independence from Great Britain, helped by suggesting a new form of government and helped by creating an impact that still lives on in current America.

Thomas Paine, being a writer, editor and overall, an ingenious man, used unique language in Common sense that helped its readers better understand the tyranny the British were causing to the American people.  During the end of the French and Indian war in 1763, before Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, The British Army and colonial militias were able to push the French out of North America. However, the colonies were not advancing in economic importance, so Great Britain embarked a new policy of stricter administration and involvement of colonial affairs1.  The resulting involvement of the British had introduced more restrictive trade policies and new taxes.  What caused the British government to be infuriated with the colonies was when Bostonians protested by dumping 10,000 pounds worth of tea into their harbor on December 16, 17731. The parliament took action by shutting down the Boston Harbor, paralyzing Massachusetts’ charter and passing additional Coercive Acts that the colonists called intolerable1. Another act by the British was the fight at Lexington and Concord, which was a battle that consisted of a hundred British troops that marched from Boston to nearby Concord to seize the colonial militia.  This resulted in a battle that left many of the colonies men dead and led the colonies to be angered [2].

Thomas Paine needed a method to influence the American people that were unsure of declaring independence from Great Britain to support those who favored declaring independence from the British Rule. So, Paine wrote Common Sense in simple, direct language aimed at ordinary people, not just the learned elite [3] or as Paine, himself says about his writing style, “As it is my design to make those that can scarcely read understand, I shall therefore…put it in the language as plain as the alphabet” 1.  In Common Sense, Paine divides the pamphlet into four different and distinct sections.  The first section, Paine establishes multiple ideas for a republican American government.  Paine begins by differentiating between government and society.  According to Paine, Society in every state is a blessing[4] and good that people join together to accomplish.  The government on the other hand, even in its best state is evil4 but is sole purpose is the protection of life, liberty, and property of the people.  Paine, in this section, establishes what a good government should be like and hints at what America should be like.  In the second section, Paine addresses the nature of the British monarchy, the sort of system monarchy brings, the beliefs of the monarchy system and the biblical equality of all men.  Paine argues that mankind was born equal in creation4 and finds it strange and unnatural that America has a king.  For example, Paine says, “But where, says some, is the King of America? I’ll tell you. Friend, He reigns above, and doth not make havoc of mankind like the Royal Brute of Britain” 4 .  Suggesting that the only King America has reigns above [God] and not like the current king of Britain who he calls a “Brute”.  Paine also uses biblical evidence that suggests that the Jews were delusional in requesting a king in which led God to be angered4.  Paine concludes that the practice of monarchy is a practice of sin that God condemns. 

The third section Paine reiterates the tension between America and Great Britain and suggests a new form of government.  Paine claims that if America continues to be with Britain, then America will stop growing and will never reach its full potential4.  Especially, with Britain constantly getting into wars with France and Spain, Britain keeps sending Colony soldiers to die for unknown reasons.  Pains suggest that the American people will avoid any internal conflict if they have a government that properly represents all the states and the people in them. What Paine suggests is a new form of government because Paine calls for an elected President, and outlines for a congressional district that has a charter of the United States that becomes the United States Constitution [5].  Within the details of the charter, Paine mentions that people should have freedom of religion and personal property.  The last section talks about the past consequences of monarchy and what future consequences it will bring if independence isn’t declared.  Paine finishes off his pamphlet by describing the great future America will have if independence is declared because it is in the best interest that Great Britain rivals will help fight Britain out of America so that America can have its independence.

When the hundreds and thousands of American people read Common Sense, it had an immediate impact on the reader but also continues to have an impact on today’s America.  Not only did it have this influence, but it was the eye-opener the colonies needed to declare independence from Great Britain.  By wording it the way Thomas Paine did, he was able to allow any literate child, man, and woman, rich or poor, to read Common Sense.  The pamphlet proved to be so influential when it was released that John Adams declared, “Without the pen of the author of ‘Common sense,’ the sword of Washington would have been raised in vain” [6]. However, Thomas Paine knew that the notion of declaring independence was not a new one.  So, by writing it almost like a sermon he was able to convey the lives of religious to non-religious people.  The impact that it continues to have can be seen in the ideal government Thomas Paine describes in Common Sense.  One can say that he prophesied the American government by declaring a president and brought up the idea of the charter of the United States that became known as the United States Constitution.  An impact it also has is by establishing America as a land that is willing to fight for what is right.  This can be seen with today’s America, in which we always have a continuous fight to decide what is right. 

Thomas Paine Common Sense is an important part of history because he helped exemplify the significance of the British rule tyranny to the American colonies that also helped influence those not sure of declaring independence to support the individuals who favored declaring independence from Great Britain, helped by suggesting a new form of government and helped by creating an impact that still lives on in current America.  The language Thomas Paine used changed the life of the American people and continues to ring in the ears of the American people.

References

  • History.Com, 2019, https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/battles-of-lexington-and-concord.
  • “Openstax CNX”. Cnx.Org, 2019, https://cnx.org/contents/[email protected]:[email protected]/Introduction.
  • Kortenhof, Kurt. “Glorious Triumph”. History Channel Magazine, 2008, Accessed 16 Oct 2019.
  • Paine, Thomas. “The Project Gutenberg E-Text Of Common Sense, By Thomas Paine.”. Gutenberg.Org, 2019, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/147/147-h/147-h.htm#thoughts.

[1] Kortenhof, Kurt. “Glorious Triumph”. History Channel Magazine, 2008, Accessed 16 Oct 2019.

1 Kortenhof, Kurt. “Glorious Triumph”. History Channel Magazine, 2008, Accessed 16 Oct 2019.

2 History.Com, 2019, https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/battles-of-lexington-and-concord.

[3] “Openstax CNX”. Cnx.Org, 2019, https://cnx.org/contents/[email protected]:[email protected]/Introduction.

[4] Paine, Thomas. “The Project Gutenberg E-Text of Common Sense, By Thomas Paine.”. Gutenberg.Org, 2019, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/147/147-h/147-h.htm#thoughts.

[5]Paine, Thomas. “The Project Gutenberg E-Text of Common Sense, By Thomas Paine.”. Gutenberg.Org, 2019, http://www.gutenberg.org/files/147/147-h/147-h.htm#thoughts.

[6] History.Com, 2019, https://www.history.com/topics/american-revolution/battles-of-lexington-and-concord.

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