Thomas Paine’s “Common sense”

A political activist, revolutionary, philosopher, and political thinker, Thomas Paine was well-known. (Paine, 2008). The America Crisis and Common Sense are two of his most well-known papers. One of his works, "Common Sense," incited people to revolt and call for their country to secede from Great Britain. (Friedrich, 1941). His two books were published at the start of the American revolt. In terms that every citizen could comprehend, common sense outlined the necessity for America to immediately sever ties with Great Britain. It was released at the start of the revolt, and it caused anonymity among the populace. They appeared to have agreed with Paine’s arguments. It presented to the colonists an argument for freedom from the Great Britain at a time when the topic and the central issue of the day were whether or not to seek for independence (Paine, Fruchtman & Hook, 2003). Paine wrote the pamphlet with the aim of reaching out to the ordinary citizens in a language they could understand to talk about the need or the importance of America being independent (Paine, 2008). My goal in this paper is to look at the arguments that Paine makes in this pamphlet and justify whether they are compelling and also the benefits of joining the revolution as a colonist.

Paine argues for American independence, which begins with more general, theoretical reflections about the government and religion and then he goes ahead and touches on the progress of the specifics of the colonial situation (Paine, 2008). He begins by giving a distinction between the government and society. According to him, society is something constructive that people join together to accomplish while a government as an institution that is supposed to protect its people from their vices (Friedrich, 1941). He further states that the sole purpose of the government is to protect the lives of citizens, liberty, and property and that it should be judged solely on the basis in which it accomplishes the goals mentioned to its people.

He also considers an imagined scenario in which a small group of people placed on an island. These people with time will interact and begin making laws for them to rule themselves. He says that the people will be glad to make the laws by themselves as they start having their system of governance. They will be happy not being ruled by somebody else from outside the island. He further argues that such a system of governance is good for the American colonists (Paine, 2008). Paine expresses his disagreement with the British reign in America and further criticizes its system of ruling. He launches an attack on the British system of government by arguing that it is too complicated and full of contradictions. He says that the monarchy gives too much power that it does not deserve. Paine reports that the British system pretends to give people a reasonable system with all that is required but the fact is that it does not offer everything to its subjects (Franklin, Adam, George, Jefferson, Paine & Washington, 2004). He argues that the structure of the government should be simple so that it does not become disordered. He criticizes the British constitution.

Paine uses a parable to bring out the general picture about the government. He intended to comment on the situation in America. In that parable, America is the land secluded from the rest of the society since it is far away from Europe and the people who are in America are the original settlers (Paine et al., 2003). The problem with this parable is that America was not secluded from the rest of the world as he claimed. European powers ruled some territories in America, and therefore the parable could not have been referring to America. Furthermore, his notion of the government, originating from nature could not have worked for America because many of the settlers had crossed over from England and they had the English kind of governance in mind rather than having a government that is created from scratch (Franklin et al., 2004).

Paine goes further and presents his arguments on monarchy and hereditary succession. He criticizes monarchy as a system which is against the Bible principles. Paine argues that humankind was in a state of equality and the inequalities in the present system are brought about by some circumstances (Paine, 2008). He says that the order of governance that entails a distinction between a king and its subjects lacks natural and religious basis. He goes further and tries to inquire its origin and the consequences that come with such governance. He argues that initially, monarchy did not exist among the Jews, but they copied it from the heathens who were their neighbors (Friedrich, 1941). He says that the Jews had sinned by having a king. Paine argues that man should only have one ruler who is God and that having a king to rule over people is like a God. He considered this act as a misdeed. The argument was based on a biblical context. He points in the Bible in the story of Samuel and the Jews. They wanted a king, but Samuel attempted to dissuade them, but they could not agree with him until he prayed to God for guidance. God assented, but Samuel thought that it was evil for people to ask for a king while they had God to rule over them.

Paine concluded that hereditary practice is a sinful thing since its proven Biblical that the origin was evil. The evidence that he outlines form the Bible makes him have a firm belief that the monarchy system is not right for people of America. He argues that everyone is equal before God and there is no reason for someone to establish his family to rule over people forever (Paine et al., 2003). He states that even if a person deserves to be honored by the people, he should not pass those honors to his children because his children may not earn the recognition. He also observes that the kings who have ruled over Britain did not do good to people. They only made them suffer. It is one of the reasons that make him be against that system of leadership. He says the kings did not exercise legitimate power.

Paine wonders where the power of a king comes. He argues that a king gets to rule based on three things that include; elections, usurpation, and selection. A king whose is made to be in power through elections is the legitimate one according to Paine. It is because people get to decide who to rule over them. He further states that people will be contented with a fairly elected king. When a king is selected, it becomes a forceful implication of power to the people who at some point bring about violence on the society (Paine, 2008). He says that the selected kings usually have weak leadership. He also argues that if a king usurped the throne, his reign should be considered illegitimate. He even disagrees with the fact that hereditary succession reduces civil wars. He points out that Britain has had up to eight civil wars and nineteen rebellions (Paine, 2004). He concludes by saying that the monarchy system has brought nothing more than bloodshed and lousy governance to its subjects.

In Paine’s time, the Bible shaped argument on matters that took place in the society. Therefore, by having a biblically based argument, he is trying to convince the American citizens that the monarchy governance that the British are trying to impose on them is evil. He insisted that they should not accept to be brainwashed. Most of the readers found his arguments genuine and boldly supported him. To some extent, most of his arguments were meant to create a revolution against the Britain reign in America (Friedrich, 1941). It is indeed true that people should be given a chance to elect their leader. Imposing a leader to people may end up suppressing them and infringing their rights. Paine’s argument on hereditary succession tends to him relying on a logic known as a false dilemma (Paine et al., 2003). He presents specific explanations that are not justifiable as far as the hereditary system is concerned. For instance, he says the first king may have been chosen either by lot, election or usurpation. He deliberately ignores that the first king of the Bible was divinely appointed (Paine, 2008). It brings to question his argument on the topic of hereditary succession. Although he succeeded in convincing most of his contemporaries, it was not a clear argument.

Paine also presents his thought on the present state of affair in America. He encourages his readers to set aside their prejudice and judge his arguments on the pamphlet with an open mind (Paine et al., 2003). Paine says that some people argue that because America has developed under the rule of Britain, it should remain under its sovereign. He further symbolizes the situation by saying that because a baby flourishes in milk, it should never be given meat. Paine argues that the position in America would have been better even without the European ruling (Friedrich, 1941). Britain is said to have brought protection to America from being attacked by other colonies. From his perspective, Paine says that the primary aim of Britain was not to protect America instead it was interested in its financial gain. He adds that if America were not a colony of Britain, it would not have been targeted by the countries which were enemies of Britain (Franklin et al., 2004). His main point is that there would not have been a need for protection if America was not a colony of Britain.

Paine refutes the claim that most of the Americans were of British origin. He argues that this was irrelevant as Britain was an enemy and there is no way it could have claimed American allegiance (Franklin et al., 2004). Paine further argues that reconciliation was not the work of Britain and says that if it were so, then Britain, which contains half of the people of French origin ought to be subject to the rule of French (Paine, 2008). He maintains that if America remains to be a colony of Britain, the financial burden that will be imposed on its people will be monumental. He gives an example of a situation in Boston, whereby British soldiers threaten to take the properties of American citizens (Paine et al., 2003). He is against America reconciling with Britain because it will only mean a repeat of the current situations. He argues that it is a misguided thought that the British will not impose taxes on the American citizens. Paine is of the view that America is large and complex and that its affairs and commerce cannot be run from afar. He says that it is absurd for a small island like Britain to rule over a vast continent like America.

Paine gives an opinion that the failure of the colonist to bring full independence will not end the struggle for America to be independent. He says that the children of those that are in power will not allow such governance and shall continue with the fight for liberation and self-governance (Friedrich, 1941). For a while, Paine had thought that reconciliation would be a good idea, but after the battle of Lexington and Concord, it was clear to him that the situation had deteriorated and that it was not going to be the solution America needed.

Paine puts down on paper the kind of government that he wishes America to have in future. He proposes a way of coming up with a congress and a president. He also recommends a continental conference that will produce a continental chapter (Paine, 2008). The chapter is supposed to come up with laws that will govern the people and protect their rights. He suggests that these rules should be inscribed in a constitution for reference.

Paine’s argument of having America being divided into districts and that each sends a representative to the Congress is not a good idea because he has not outlined how these representatives are to be elected hence may bring conflict among the citizens (Franklin et al., 2004). On the issue of the president being elected from each colony until each one of them gets to power is a good suggestion. It is because no territory will have complaints because each has a chance to lead.

In conclusion, Paine’s Common sense was aimed at creating a revolution in America through the arguments he gives in the pamphlet. He was tired with the British rule and wanted liberation for the people of America. Most of his readers agreed with him hence he was encouraged to write down most of his personal thoughts on what is happening in the society.


Franklin, S., Adams, S., George III, K., Jefferson, T., Paine, T., Washington, G. ... & Armistead, J. (2004). The American Revolution. The nineteenth century is.

Friedrich, C. J. (1941). Constitutional government and democracy; theory and practice in Europe and America.

Paine, T. (2008). Rights of Man, Common Sense, and other political writings. Oxford University Press.

Paine, T., Fruchtman, J., & Hook, S. (2003). Common Sense, Rights of Man, and Other Essential Writings of Thomas Paine (pp. 3-68). New York: Signet Classics.

Deadline is approaching?

Wait no more. Let us write you an essay from scratch

Receive Paper In 3 Hours
Calculate the Price
275 words
First order 15%
Total Price:
$38.07 $38.07
Calculating ellipsis
Hire an expert
This discount is valid only for orders of new customer and with the total more than 25$
This sample could have been used by your fellow student... Get your own unique essay on any topic and submit it by the deadline.

Find Out the Cost of Your Paper

Get Price