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Common Sense (pamphlet)

For the article referring to the term common sense, see common sense
Common Sense by Thomas Paine

Common Sense by Thomas Paine

Common Sense was a pamphlet first published on January 10, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War by Thomas Paine. He wrote it with editorial feedback from Benjamin Rush, who came up with the title. Its pages contained a denouncement of British rule.

Arguments against British rule in Common Sense:

  • It was ridiculous for an island to rule a continent
    America was not a "British nation"; it was composed of influences from all of Europe
    Even if Britain was the "mother country" of America, that made her actions all the more horrendous, for no mother would harm her children so brutally
    Being a part of Britain would drag America into unnecessary European wars, and keep it from the international commerce at which America excelled.
    The distance between the two nations made the lag in time about a year for something to go round trip. If there was something wrong in the government, it would take a year before the new America heard back.
    The New World was discovered shortly after the Reformation. This showed the Puritans that God wanted to give them a safe haven from the persecution of British rule.
     

The publication of this pamphlet was key in the growth of popular support for independence from Britain. Thomas Jefferson took ideas from both this publication and John Locke when writing the Declaration of Independence.

Less-quoted sections of the pamphlet include Paine's over-optimistic view of America's military potential at the time of the Revolution. For example, he spends pages describing how colonial shipyards, by using the large amounts of lumber available in the country, could quickly create a navy that could rival the Royal Navy.
 

'Common Sense' was tremendously popular. John Taylor Gatto has reported that "Thomas Paine’s Common Sense sold 600,000 copies to a population of 3,000,000, 20 percent of whom were slaves and 50 percent indentured servants."

Contents

1 Quotations
2 Further reading
3 External links
3.1 Book text
 

 

Quotations

  1. I offer nothing but the simple facts, plain arguements and common sense. (opening line)
  2. A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.
  3. 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.
  4. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil.
  5. Every thing that is right or natural pleads for separation.
  6. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of nature cries, 'tis time to part.
  7. 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. ... so far as we approve of monarchy, that in America the law is king.
     

Further reading

  • Scott Liell, 46 Pages: Tom Paine, Common Sense, and the Turning Point to American Independence, Running Press, April, 2003, hardcover, 160 pages, ISBN 076241507X; trade paperback, March, 2004, 176 pages, ISBN 0762418133.