"Among the most influential authors and reformers of his age, Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was born in England but went on to play an important role in both the American and French Revolutions. In 1774, he emigrated to America where, for a time, he helped edit the Pennsylvania Magazine. On January 10, 1776, he published his pamphlet Common Sense, a persuasive argument for the colonies' political and economic separation from Britain. Common Sense cites the evils of monarchy, accuses the British government of inflicting economic and social injustices upon the colonies, and points to the absurdity of an island attempting to rule a continent. Credited by George Washington as having changed the minds of many of his countrymen, the document sold over 500,000 copies within a few months. Today, Common Sense remains a landmark document in the struggle for freedom, distinguished not only by Paine's ideas but also by its clear and passionate presentation. Designed to ignite public opinion against autocratic rule, the pamphlet offered a careful balance between imagination and judgment, and appropriate language and expression to fit the subject. It immediately found a receptive audience, heartened Washington's despondent army and foreshadowed much of the phrasing and substance of the Declaration of Independence"--Back cover.
"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."
Another quote, which I find very applicable to current politics:
"Immediate necessity makes many things convenient, which if continued would grow into oppressions. Expedience and right are different things."
It's short, entertaining and very, very good. Read it. Borrow my copy.
I found the beginning more interesting than the end. The idea of hereditary succession was interesting. I enjoyed reading Paine thrashing the British monarchy, that took a lot of courage to not sugar coat. He did a great job, though I do think it might could have been a little shorter. Some of the ideas I thought were a bit long-winded.
I think a fascinating thing is while reading and thinking the ideas are brilliant...you then begin realizing everything Paine is pointing to is just "common sense." I guess readers just needed it pulled from their thoughts and placed in a more rational line of thinking.
Great man. Sad life.
A nice common sense argument against British rule over America. Published at just the right time - King George III’s speech was released at the same time. Paine mentions this in his appendix but I wish the King’s speech was included in this volume. Paine also includes an essay to Quakers apparently some Quakers had published a testimony supporting (?) the King. Paine tells them that as Quakers they should not involve themselves “ye ought not to be meddlers on the other, but to wait the issue in silence.” (p.57) He also tells them, “mingling religion with politics may be disavowed...by every inhabitant of American.” What a hyprocrit Payne is because throughout his main essay he appeals to religion for reasons to overthrow the King. Payne makes excellent points against hereditary passing the throne, “in the next succession...rogue or a fool.” (p. 13) If all men are born equal, how can someone’s children rule forever? The first King probably was a bully or tyrant what gives him superiority? Payne feels that an island 3000 mies away should not govern a large continent. Also it takes 3-4 months to get direction from the Mother country. England has enemies, America has none, why should we not be able to side with whom we want, or stay our of events and wars not of our choosing?
A forerunner of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, Common Sense should properly be regarded (at least in a historical, though not a legal, sense) as one of the founding documents of this nation.
Paine makes the case for independence in strong moral terms, clearly based on the Enlightenment political theories of John Locke. The list he gives of the Crown's abuses should already be familiar to the reader from the Declaration (Jefferson did not give sufficient credit to Paine for his obvious influence on that document), though Paine's recounting is somewhat more detailed, as he could treat the topic at greater length in his pamphlet.
Paine also offers suggestions in some detail about a Constitutional Congress and the drafting of such a document, and based on the course of subsequent events it seems that the other Founders took Paine's suggestions to heart.
And of course, few other books in history (and particularly non-fiction works, since art can have a power that plain argument does not) have so effectively rallied public opinion.
Read this book. You will be surprised, even if your expectations were already high, and you will certainly be inspired.
I will not discuss the contents of the book (actually a pamphlet and quite short). I urge everyone to read it for themselves.
In his essay, he lays out a framework which fairly closely resembles today's republican government of America.
I found some of his most famous and repeated line, yet found myself underlining much more.
Hindsight makes it all the more interesting - the idea that not having a monarch would make it much less likely that a civil war would happen in America. Hm...
This weekend we celebrate our 235 year as a free country and these documents are important to read and re-read throughout our lives to ensure that we remember why we are the country we are.
Happy Independence Day!
I found it difficult to read at some points - the shift in language required me to read the same passages multiple times to understand it. And sometimes, a sentence only made sense in the context of the larger page. But- the arguments are very clear.
I think all politicians should read this book - as a country, I think America have gone away from the intent of elected officials. Thomas Paine makes it very clear the best government is when each person gets to vote on an issue but when populations are too large second best is vote for a representative.
This is a book of it's time... There are non-politically correct references to "Savages" of Africa and Native Indians. It is very clear that Thomas Paine was writing to an audience who thought Christianity was the most "Civilized" religion. I say this because the introduction indicates that Thomas Paine was Deist and was against slavery. So, was he writing to his audience? or did he actually believe what he wrote. It is an interesting question.