Thomas Paine's 1776 pamphlet, Common Sense, may be the most influential political tract ever written, following The Communist Manifesto. This research study examines the profound impact of Common Sense on the American Independence movement. By galvanizing countless Americans living in the Thirteen Colonies, Paine's persuasive language and cogent arguments ignited the revolutionary spirit and paved the way for the declaration of independence from British rule.
The Power of Plain Language
The title, "Common Sense," embodies Paine's strategy of addressing the ordinary man and woman rather than scholars or politicians. Using simple language, Paine skillfully conveyed his message, winning support for the cause of independence. Common Sense achieved unparalleled success, with an estimated 100,000 copies sold at a time when the colonies' population was around 2.5 million, creating a sensation across the nation.
"The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind."
This powerful quote from Common Sense's introduction elevates the pamphlet beyond its immediate context, making it a universal plea for independence and anti-monarchical government. Paine's vision extends beyond the Thirteen Colonies, championing the idea that the struggle for American liberty resonates with the inherent desire for freedom among all peoples.
The Nature of Government
For Paine, government is necessary in civilized society, but it can also be a necessary evil. Governments serve to restrain the inner "evil" of individuals, ensuring security is maintained. According to Paine, the most preferable form of government is one that guarantees security with the least expense and greatest benefit.
"Society is produced by our wants, and government by wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices."
Paine's eloquent argument portrays government as a check on the negative aspects of human nature rather than a positive force in society. He argues that suffering under a government is heightened when it brings about miseries comparable to a society without any governing body. This notion challenges the colonists to critically examine the authority under which they live and question the legitimacy of British rule.
"In short, monarchy and succession have laid (not this or that kingdom only) but the world in blood and ashes."
Throughout Common Sense, Paine takes a staunchly anti-monarchical stance, illustrating historical examples of kings and monarchies causing problems for their subjects. His compelling arguments strip away the mystical aura surrounding monarchs, emphasizing their human nature with flaws and weaknesses. This deconstruction of monarchy contributes to the growing discontent among colonists towards British rule.
"Of more worth is one honest man to society and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived."
This famous quotation exemplifies Paine's value of individual behavior over hereditary privilege. By contrasting the worth of an honest common man with that of a dishonest king, Paine emphasizes the significance of individual integrity in shaping a just society. His rhetoric fosters a sense of empowerment among the colonists, inspiring them to believe that their collective efforts can challenge and overcome oppressive rule.
The Power of Simple Facts
"I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense."
Paine's emphasis on simplicity resonates with readers, transcending differences in education and social status. He presents straightforward facts and logical reasoning, reaching a broad audience both in the Thirteen Colonies and abroad, including France. By appealing to common sense, Paine taps into a collective consciousness that reinforces the desire for autonomy and independence.
Of course, he's also suggesting that the cause for independence only needs to be laid out in simple facts, with a straightforward argument that amounts to 'common sense': what everyone, deep down, knows is the right thing. Paine's rhetoric is founded on simplicity, rather than clever scholarly references or convoluted political arguments.
The Strength of Unity
"It is not in numbers, but in unity, that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world."
Paine's rallying cry for unity serves as a potent motivator for the colonists. Despite the Thirteen Colonies' smaller population and the absence of a substantial navy, Paine asserts that through collaboration and collective action, they can build a navy to rival the Royal Navy. Additionally, the vast number of men living among the colonies makes it possible to form formidable armies.
This message of unity resonates deeply with the colonists, instilling a sense of pride and determination in their cause. Paine's vision transcends the physical limitations of numbers, recognizing that a united front can withstand any opposition. The call for unity becomes a driving force behind the American Independence movement, forging a shared identity and purpose among the colonists.
In conclusion, Thomas Paine's Common Sense stands as a monumental force that propelled the American Independence movement forward. Paine's use of plain language, powerful rhetoric, and persuasive arguments ignited the revolutionary spirit among countless colonists. By challenging the legitimacy of monarchical rule and advocating for self-governance, Paine's work laid the groundwork for the eventual declaration of independence.
Common Sense continues to inspire generations with its timeless appeal to the universal desire for freedom and self-determination. The pamphlet's influence extends beyond the Thirteen Colonies, serving as a beacon of hope for oppressed peoples around the world. Thomas Paine's revolutionary vision, conveyed through the pages of Common Sense, remains an enduring testament to the transformative power of ideas and the indomitable spirit of human liberty.