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An Analysis Of Common Sense

1713 words - 7 pages

As the year 1776 began in the American colonies, tension with King George III’s England was at perhaps an all-time high.  Americans were frustrated with the actions of their rulers overseas.  Taxes and trade restrictions had been placed on them, and British and mercenary soldiers occupied their towns and cities.  There had even been fighting at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill.  As America grew, England’s hold on it tightened, and a few voices began speaking of independence.  The loudest and most convincing of these belonged to Thomas Paine, born in England and living in Philadelphia.  His pamphlet, Common Sense, expressed the argument for American independence in a way no one had ...view middle of the document...

  “Male and female are the distinctions of nature,” Paine wrote, “good and bad the distinctions of heaven; but how a race of men came into the world so exalted above the rest . . . is worth enquiring into” (Paine 9).  Government is a necessary evil, a “badge of lost innocence,” that tends to get in the way of civilized society.  Modern civilizations should organize themselves into local, self-governing societies with only representational government, suggested Paine, not an all-powerful monarch. “Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived” (Paine 17).
     Paine went on to speak in more conventional terms about the specific nature of the conflict.  He had anticipated that readers would be startled by his conclusions, and defended against possible objections.  Uncertainty in the British Empire, some caused by disturbances in America, was bad for commerce.  England would continue to drag Americans into European wars that were not their affair, said Paine, and protect them only when beneficial to themselves.  Americans would not require their protection; they already had the means to defend their land.  Distance and poor communication across the Atlantic made the centers of government remote from the colonists. Common Sense stressed the need for and the power of unity among the American people.  Rulers need the support of the ruled to survive; that is where true power is found.  Paine made a final attack on the idea that problems could be resolved. “O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression.  Freedom hath been hunted round 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” (Paine 33).
     Common Sense was remarkable not only because it placed the issue of independence clearly before the American people for the first time, but it was also the first vigorous attack on the King and the first appeal for an American republic.  Paine accused George III of making it impossible for Americans to live free within the British Empire and destroyed the idea that there was any difference between the King and the Parliament.  King George had previously been revered as a great leader; now he became a figure of pure evil to his American subjects.  While they had previously believed that siding with him was to their benefit, they now saw his motives to be opposed to their own (Miller 468).
     Paine’s passion and the simplicity of his writing also attracted readers to his ideas.  His arguments are general; he avoided mentioning the Stamp Act and other specific disputes, a sign of subtlety found in most of Paine’s political writings.  This would have distracted the reader from the main issue (Woodward 77).  Before Paine, most pamplet...

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