Thomas Paine 'Common Sense': Arguments for Independence

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“Common Sense” is a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine in the years 1775-1776 in which he advocates that the thirteen original colonies, which later became the United States, achieve independence from Britain. Paine wrote in clear and convincing prose and introduced moral and political arguments to encourage ordinary people in the colonies to fight for an egalitarian government. It was published anonymously on January 10, 1776, the beginning of the American Revolution, and became an immediate sensation.

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In the first section of “Common Sense”, Pain begins by distinguishing between government and society. According to Paine “they are not only different, but have a different origin” . Paine says that society is everything constructive and good that people want to achieve. The government, on the other hand, is an institution whose aim is to protect us from our own vices. The government has its origin in human evil and is therefore at best a “necessary evil” . Paine says that the government’s sole purpose is to protect life, freedom and property, and that a government should be judged solely by the extent to which it achieves that goal. He illustrates the power of society to create and maintain happiness in people by using the example of a few isolated people who find it easier to live together than to live apart and thus create society. As society continues to grow, a government becomes necessary to prevent the natural evil that Paine sees in people .

In the second section Paine talks about the monarchy. He begins by arguing that all human beings are equal at the time of creation, and therefore the distinction between kings and subjects like in England is inherently false. One realized fast that Pain is really anti-monarchy and against a king. In addition, he says that one honest man is “of more worth to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived” . With “Ruffians” he obviously means the Kings. In order for Americans to want to break free of Britain, they had to believe that Britain’s rules and philosophies were unjust. Otherwise, there is no reason to gain independence. Furthermore, Paine states that the “monarchy and succession have laid (not this or that kingdom only) but the world in blood and ashes” . The conclusion Paine draws is that the practice of monarchy comes from sin and is an institution that condemns the Bible and God. Paine calls the succession an abominable practice. He says that even if people choose a king “no one by birth could have a right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever”. Paine emphasizes the importance of the separation of Britain while assuming that if America will not become independent all the problems that had occurred will repeat again and again. Moreover, succession has brought with it countless evils such as incompetent kings, corruption and civil war.

After that Paine examines the hostilities between England and the American colonies and argues that the best course of action would be the independence of the colonists. Paine proposes a continental charter, which he calls an intermediary between Congress and the people. This continental charter should outline a new national government, which should take the form of a Congress. It should be established in the following way: “Each colony be divided into six, eight, or ten, convenient districts, each district to send a proper number of delegates to Congress, so that each colony send at least thirty” . The convention would then meet annually and elect a president.

Paine thinks that right now it is the perfect time to break free from Britain, because of the current size of the colonies and especially their military skills. Pain has an optimistic view of the military potential because they have gained experience from the last war. Besides that, he states that “no country on the globe is so happily situated, so internally capable of raising a fleet as America”. Tar, timber, iron, and cordage are naturally occurring. He goes on with describing how colonial shipyards could quickly create a navy that could compete with the British Royal Navy by using the large quantities of timber available in the country, but they should not wait too long because “the timber of this country is every day diminishing” . Paine is convinced that with that America can ensure its security and prosperity in trade. Paine also argues that America is small enough to be united now. If time passed and the population of the colonies grew, the same sense of unity would not exist. Paine adds that if the Americans revolt now, they can use the vast expanses of unknown land in the West to pay off some of the debt they will incur.   

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