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Common Sense by Thomas Paine as a Weapon

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The American Revolution has given the United States some of it’s most famous and revered figures in our history. George Washington, John Adams, and Thomas Jefferson are known to virtually every person in the country, maybe even the world, and their importance cannot be denied. However, perhaps the most important name of all is merely a footnote in American history. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense not only rationalized the idea of independence, it also became a catalyst for the entire Revolution. As a whole, Thomas Paine’s use of religion and rationality to prove that kings have no right to rule and dispel judgment would have had the greatest impact on the middle and working class of the colonial population.

A successful revolution is not run by the elites, or the upper class. Revolution runs through the common people. The people hurt the most by oppression, the people with nothing to lose but their lives, the people who truly believe in freedom and change. For a revolution to truly succeed, the common people have to believe in the end goal. In the events leading up to the Revolution, the people most affected by the abuse of power by the English Parliament was the average, everyday colonist. Common Sense spoke to the everyday man in a way that was articulate, understandable language, while also being both rational and foreboding. Shortly after its publishing, an anonymous reviewer stated in The Philadelphia Evening Post that, ““If you know the author of COMMON SENSE, tell him he has done wonders and worked miracles, made TORIES WHIGS, and washed Blackamoors white. He has made a great number of converts here. His style is plain and nervous; his facts are true; his reasoning just and conclusive… Can any virtuous and brave American hesitate one moment in the choice?”. It is evident that Common Sense not only captivated the common people, it forced people to finally confront the inevitability of a fight for independence. Thomas Paine addresses this inevitability, warning of the dangers of “putting off” this struggle for freedom. He states, “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”. Through straightforward and convincing writing, Thomas Paine forces the common people to confront the fight for independence. [0: ]

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One of Paine’s main appeals to the common people is his use of religion and God. America is an intensely Christian community, with an overwhelming majority of the population being devoted to their parish. Naturally, an appeal through the Bible would connect with the common man. Paine states, “As the exalting one man so greatly above the rest cannot be justified on the equal rights of nature, so neither can it be defended on the authority of scripture; for the will of the Almighty, as declared by Gideon and the prophet Samuel, expressly disapproves of government by kings. All anti-monarchical parts of scripture have been very smoothly glossed over in monarchical governments, but they undoubtedly merit the attention of countries which have their governments yet to form”. The simple rationality that if the Bible disapproves of a monarchy, a devout man should also disapprove, would undoubtedly resonate with the American population. Furthermore, it shows the hypocrisy of the British government, as they mandate that their sovereign ruler is chosen by God. He goes on to say, “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”. By this simple appeal to God being their true ruler, it forces the reader to reconsider their commitment to England while also realizing independence might be God’s will. [1: ] [2: ]

Perhaps the most effective aspect of Common Sense is it’s rational yet total destruction of the idea of British rule. Paine, again through simplicity and reasoning, is able to lift the veil of tyranny off of the common people’s’ eyes, and teaches them the absurdity and irrationality “…in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island.” Paine puts into words the irrationality behind thinking that a man brought up in the most elite of elite societies on the other side of the world could have even the slightest understanding of the common colonist. He goes on to say, “Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance; and the world they act in differs so materially from the world at large, that they have but little opportunity of knowing its true interests, and when they succeed to the government are frequently the most ignorant and unfit of any throughout the dominions.”. Paine is essentially reasoning that a stuffy snob lost in his own importance can not possibly have any benefit for the colonists, while also exposing how differently the king thinks compared to the common man. Paine is also leading the reader to come to their own conclusion that the only way that they can have their true interests represented, they have to establish their own free government of colonists, separated from the imperious, out of touch government of England. Paine continues ridicules the monarchy, for example makes of a folly out of the idea of hereditary rule. Paine essentially asks, with both humor and reason, why, if the ruler is divinely chosen, is he often a groveling idiot? “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”. This humanization and rationalization of such a ridiculous concept as hereditary rule allows the common person to question not only their own belief in such a system, but also their commitment to being a citizen of the British Empire. Thomas Paine’s appeal to the common man’s rationality not only diminishes the cause for reconciliation, but also promotes the need to separate from the tyranny of England. [3: ] [4: ] [5: ]

There is a reason Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was, and remains, one of the best-selling American titles ever produced. Common Sense was not just a novel, but a movement. Through its appeals to rationality and God, the idea of independence became more than a whimsical ideal, with no real belief it it becoming reality. Independence became something that was not only achievable, but necessary for the lives of every common man in America. The rationality and religious appeal by Thomas Paine created a movement in the common people that elitist debates and resolves never could, and through the power of the masses, was able to kickstart the movement for independence.

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Common Sense by Thomas Paine as a Weapon. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved January 31, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/common-sense-by-thomas-paine-as-a-weapon/
“Common Sense by Thomas Paine as a Weapon.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/common-sense-by-thomas-paine-as-a-weapon/
Common Sense by Thomas Paine as a Weapon. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/common-sense-by-thomas-paine-as-a-weapon/> [Accessed 31 Jan. 2023].
Common Sense by Thomas Paine as a Weapon [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2023 Jan 31]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/common-sense-by-thomas-paine-as-a-weapon/
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