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The Effects Of Thomas Paine And Thomas Jefferson's Works On American Government

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The Declaration of Independence says that, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” This revolutionary document that was mainly written by Thomas Jefferson, was instituted with this powerful first sentence. It sets the tone for the several rights and ideals stated in the document. Though Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, the profound ideals that influenced the execution of it was spotlighted in Thomas Paine’s pamphlet titled Common Sense. Both Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson were advocates for independence from Great Britain and the equal rights of all people under a democratic government, but their written works exude their ideals in differing tones. Thomas Paine adopted an informal tone in Common Sense to persuade his audience, meanwhile Thomas Jefferson took on a formal tone to declare his ideals in the Declaration of Independence. Paine’s use of an informal tone was effectual in being able to touch all sorts of people.

Thomas Paine generated an informal tone in Common Sense by using logos, pathos, and ethos. Paine appealed to logos by reinforcing his convictions with solid evidence to prove the beneficence of America becoming independent. He also appealed to logos by emphasizing Britain’s aristocratic behavior towards America, which he thought the Americans should drift away from in order to move forward as one unified and independent country. Ethos was also used by Paine to root for the U.S. in its fight for independence over Great Britain and since Paine was born and raised in Britain his inspirational words established integrity since it was coming from a foreigner looking in. Paine was well known for his deistic beliefs, but in spite of this he still managed to relate his message using the Bible as a reference knowing that it was highly valued by the Americans. “Paine announced that not only did there not exist a divine right of kings, but that the proof lay within the pages of the Bible itself, and that the King/Lords/ Commons balance of powers was nothing but a theatrical performance, helping subjects believe the myth of their system’s fairness and equity, when in fact it was corrupt and oligarchic. He explained how adults do not require any fatherly king (or mother country) to oversee them; they only need the rule of law” (Nelson, 239). This particular quote shows how he was able to equate with the Americans using their religious values as evidence. Lastly, by using Pathos, he stated that the journey to freedom may bring feelings of fear, but it will all be worth it in the long run. Craig Nelson supported this claim when he said that “Thomas Paine spiritually transformed an unfocused and confusing civil war into an ennobling crusade of good confronting evil, following a course both difficult and frightening, but ending with a triumph that was inevitable” (239). Craig Nelson is merely suggesting that the difficult journey towards independence was worth it. Each of these methods of persuasion used in Common Sense ultimately produced an informal tone that any one person could relate to.

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Furthermore, Thomas Paine’s informal tone in Common Sense made his pamphlet accessible and intelligible to a diverse audience in 1776 when it was published. Paine’s word selection was simplified making it easy for everyone to comprehend. This informal tone and style of writing he practiced set him apart from most other writers of his time and allowed him to have an extraordinary influence in America. According to the article “The Common Style of Common Sense” it is said that “To communicate with such an audience, he had to craft his arguments in simple words and sentences. As he himself put it “As it is my design to make those that can scarcely read and understand, I shall therefore avoid every literary ornament and put it in language as plain as the alphabet” (Sigelman 374). This illustrates how conscious Paine was in making his pamphlets accessible to all educational levels. His initiative was applauded by none other than Thomas Jefferson himself, who once stated, “No writer has exceeded Paine in ease and familiarity of style, in perspicuity of expression, happiness of elucidation, and in simple and unassuming language” (Sigelman 374). Though Thomas Jefferson was supportive of Paine’s informal writing style and inspirational message, his particular style and tone took an entirely different approach in the Declaration of Independence.

Contrarily, Jefferson composed the Declaration of Independence using a formal tone. The tone used in this important document that made a mark in U.S. history may also be identified as confident and assertive. These modes of writing used to convey the desire to become an independent country are essential in order to show boldness as a unified front and demand freedom. Jefferson’s formal tone is successful in convincing the British. The U.S. national archives says that, “Using roughly the same system of diacritical notation he had employed in 1776 in his reading draft of the Declaration, Jefferson systematically analyzed the patterns of accentuation in a wide range of English writers…it displays Jefferson's keen sense of the interplay between sound and sense in language. There can be little doubt that, like many accomplished writers, he consciously composed for the ear as well as for the eye--a trait that is nowhere better illustrated than in the eloquent cadences of the preamble in the Declaration of Independence” (Lucas par. 13). Jefferson’s writing style is fairly prevalent in this extraordinary document through his use of diction and affirmative statements. Some of these statements include, “we hold”, “he has refused”, and “we mutually pledge” amid many others used to assert the declarations made. The national archive closed its article on the Declaration of Independence’s literary style by claiming that “the Declaration is a work of consummate artistry. From its eloquent introduction to its aphoristic maxims of government, to its relentless accumulation of charges against George III, to its elegiac denunciation of the British people, to its heroic closing sentence, it sustains an almost perfect synthesis of style, form, and content. Its solemn and dignified tone, its graceful and unhurried cadence, its symmetry, energy, and confidence, its combination of logical structure and dramatic appeal, its adroit use of nuance and implication all contribute to its rhetorical power” (Lucas par. 32). All in all, the formal and assertive tone of the Declaration was beneficial in demanding independence from Great Britain.

In conclusion, both Thomas Paine and Thomas Jefferson had differing tones in their most renowned written works, but in the long run, had the same intentions to inspire and make a change in the dynamic of American government. They were firm supporters of seeking independence from Great Britain and the equal rights of all people under a democratic government, which both of them presented uniquely. Thomas Paine adopted an informal tone in Common Sense to convince his audience of his revolutionary ideas. Meanwhile, Thomas Jefferson took on a formal and daring tone to declair his beliefs and hopes for the future once they became a free country, in the Declaration of Independence. Overall, both Jefferson and Paine paved the way to make sure that Americans get the “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” they always aspired for through their distinctive tones.

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The Effects Of Thomas Paine And Thomas Jefferson’s Works On American Government. (2021, September 13). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 5, 2024, from
“The Effects Of Thomas Paine And Thomas Jefferson’s Works On American Government.” Edubirdie, 13 Sept. 2021,
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