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The Influence of Common Sense on the Radical Thoughts in America

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Chela Addison

Instructor: Martin H. Fulmer

English 203-D20

June 7, 2012

The Influence of Common Sense on the Radical Thoughts in America

First published in January 1776, Thomas Paine’s Common Sense is a pamphlet, which presented American colonists with a battle for freedom from British rule.   Paine put forth the first public call for independence. He challenges the authority of the British government and the royal monarchy.   Thomas Paine urges American colonists to fight for freedom and establish a country where equality, personal freedom, economic and social progress would be present. Common Sense played key role in encouraging many Americans to abandon their English identity; and risk their lives for the cause of freedom, revolution, and a new nation. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense proclaimed the anti-British movement of the Colonies in a way so unmatched that it permanently changed the face of government in America.

Common Sense made a clear case for independence; and politically and ideologically attacked the British monarchy. Paine launched an assault on the premises behind the British government stating that, “government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one…” (page 3) His view that government is "but a necessary evil" demonstrates the revolt he had against the British government. He also describes the legitimacy of monarchy and hereditary power in general. "One of the strongest natural proofs of the folly of hereditary right in kings, is, that nature disapproves it, otherwise she would not so frequently turn it into ridicule by giving mankind an ass for a lion."(page 12) Paine uses hereditary succession to sway the public against monarchy by pointing out that not everyone who was to inherit the throne was fit for the job. If this were true, nature wouldn’t show otherwise.

Paine insisted that Great Britain was responsible for nearly every problem in colonial society and that the crisis could only be resolved by colonial independence. He stated, “Let Britain wave her pretensions to the continent, or the continent throw off the dependence, and we should be at peace with France and Spain, were they at war with Britain. The miseries of Hanover last war ought to warn us against connexions.”(page 19). Paine’s goal of independence could only be achieved by the Americans disconnecting themselves from Great Britain.

Paine then challenges the King's power by mocking his actions in America and declared that "even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their own families."(page 20) Paine illustrates the disarray that Great Britain has shown toward America, and how Britain waged war upon its ‘own’ people. Finally, Paine gives his last request for the creation of an independent American nation: “until an independence is declared the Continent will feel itself like a man who continues putting off some unpleasant business from day to day, yet knows it must be done, hates to set about it, wishes it over, and is continually haunted with the thoughts of its necessity.”(page 44) Paine encourages his fellow Americans to rise to action and do what he believes must be done.

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