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Thomas Paine Versus Thomas Jefferson: Comparative Essay

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The Declaration of Independence tells us 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 piece of work in history that was mostly written by Thomas Jefferson, was introduced with this strong initial statement. It establishes the tone for the several rights and ideas stated in this work. Even though Thomas Jefferson was the author of the Declaration of Independence, the profound ideas that influenced the staging of it was spotlighted in Paine’s pamphlet titled Common Sense. Both Paine and Jefferson were promoters for independence from Great Britain and the equal rights of everyone under a democratic government, however, their written works emanate their ideas in different tones. Thomas Paine embraced an informal tone in Common Sense to sway his audience, on the other hand, Thomas Jefferson took a formal tone to reveal his ideas in the Declaration of Independence. Paine’s use of an informal tone was advantageous in the fact that it was able to touch all types of citizens.

Paine produced an informal tone in Common Sense by using logos, pathos, and ethos. Paine drew to logos by fortifing his beliefs with immense evidence to substantiate the goodwill of America becoming independent. He was also able to appeal to logos by accentuating Britain’s snobbish behavior about America, in which he believed the Americans should veer away from in order to move forward as a single unified and independent country. Ethos was also applied by Paine to root for the United States in its struggle for independence over Great Britain and being that Paine was born and raised in Britain his persuasive words exhibited integrity since it was coming from an outsider looking in. Thomas Paine was notable for his deistic beliefs, however, despite all of this he still was able to connect his message using the Holy Bible as a point of reference being aware 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 precise quote shows how he was able to identify with Americans by using their own religious values as evidence. Finally, by using Pathos, he said that the journey to freedom may bring feelings of fear, but it will all be worth it in the long run. Craig Nelson defended 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). Nelson is simply indicating that the rough journey in approaching independence is worth it. Each of these methods of persuasion used in Common Sense eventually made for an informal tone that anyone could understand.

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Furthermore, Paine’s informal tone in Common Sense made his pamphlet approachable and intelligible to a varying audience in 1776 when it was published. Thomas Paine’s word choice was simplified making it simple enough for everyone to grasp. His informal tone and type of writing he followed set him apart from most other writers of his time and granted him to be able to have an astounding 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 shows how aware Thomas Paine was when making his pamphlets available for all educational levels. His plan was applauded by no one else but the amazing Thomas Jefferson himself, who once said, “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). Even though Thomas Jefferson was encouraged by Thomas Paine’s informal writing style and inspirational message, his distinct style and tone took a completely different approach in the Declaration of Independence.

Contrarily, Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence using a formal tone. The tone used in this important document that has made a mark in United States history may also have be viewed as confident and assertive. These means of writing used to relay the yearning to become an independent country are crucial in order to show courage as a unified front and demand freedom. Thomas Jefferson’s formal tone is successful in persuading the British. The United States. 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). Thomas Jefferson’s writing style is pretty pervasive in this extraordinary document by his use of terminology and affirmative statements. Some of these very statements include, “we hold”, “he has refused”, and “we mutually pledge” among numerous others used to assert the declarations made. The national archive closed its article on the Declaration of Independence’s literary style by declaring 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.

Overall, both Paine and Jefferson had varying tones in their most acclaimed written works, but in the long run however, they had the same objectives which was to stimulate and make changes in the dynamic of the United States government. They were firm believers of pursuing independence from Great Britain and the equal rights of everyone under a democratic government, which both Paine and Jefferson introduced uniquely. Paine embraced an informal tone in Common Sense to persuade his listeners of his revolutionary ideas. Meanwhile, Jefferson took a formal and daring tone to communicate his beliefs and hopes for the future once they became a free country, in the Declaration of Independence. In the end, both Jefferson and Paine originated a way to make sure that the Americans get the “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness” that they always dreamed for through their distinguishing tones.

  1. Lucas, Stephen. “The Stylistic Artistry of the Declaration of Independence.” The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.
  2. Nelson, Craig. “Thomas Paine and the Making of ‘Common Sense.’” New England Review (1990-), vol. 27, no. 3, 2006, pp. 228–250. JSTOR, Accessed 25 Feb. 2020.
  3. Sigelman, Lee, et al. “The Common Style of ‘Common Sense.’” Computers and the Humanities, vol. 30, no. 5, 1996, pp. 373–379. JSTOR, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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