Thoughts on Common Sense


          For any of you who have either paid close attention to some of my most recent posts or visits my page titled “What Am I Reading?” you will know that I have been indulging in Thomas Paine’s Common Sense. Last night I finished reading it and I couldn’t help but feel that Paine’s treatise was nothing but the antagonist of the treatise  by Machiavelli, The Prince. This however was nothing but a simply comparison. Paine’s discourse was clear, concise and full of passion. His life showed him to be a freethinker and a revolutionary by nature. This of course can be seen in his participation in the American Revolution of which this work [Common Sense] is dedicated to. He later lived in Paris where he played a role in the French Revolution.

“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. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.”

          Although Common Sense is a short work; it was a pamphlet handed out during the American Revolution, it was a rallying cry for the taking up of arms against Britain. Paine argues that there does not exist a SINGLE good reason for the American colonies to stay loyal to Britain nor is their any benefit in reconciling their friendship. He argues that if any attempt to mend the bond between the two nations were to be made it would only end up in the subjugation and the thraldom of the colonies.

“Small islands, not capable of protecting themselves, are the proper objects for kingdoms to take under their care; but there is something absurd, in supposing a continent to be perpetually governed by an island.”

          Paine continues by showing the benefits of building an American navy and how such a navy would be beneficial not simply for defence but also as an investment. He provides monetary calculations to show the inflation of value of a built navy and how the costs are far lower than the return, therefore making the construction of a navy dually beneficial.  He also provides rough advice for the creation of a governing body for the 13 colonies and how they can distribute governance among themselves.

“An army of principles can penetrate where an army of soldiers cannot.”

          Paine’s overall message, not only in Common Sense, but in his life as a whole is a demonstrably antagonistic view of absolute authority and the necessity of independence, freethinking and liberty. For such a reason he states that:

“The cause of America is in great measure the cause of all mankind”

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