January 10, 2017
“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. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one.” With these words, Thomas Paine began his argument for America to break free from the bonds of the British monarchy.
Paine, an Englishman himself, met Benjamin Franklin in 1774 in London. Realizing they had the same desire for American freedom, Franklin encouraged him to move to America. Paine immediately traveled to Philadelphia where he began writing for the Pennsylvania Magazine. Among his most popular topics were the abolishment of slavery and the colonists' fight for independence.
George Whitfield (see ) and The Black Robed Regiment (see , , and ) were already preaching liberty and freedom for over a decade before Paine arrival. Many colonists were already well versed in the idea of independence. So when Paine published his pamphlet entitled Common Sense on January 10, 1776, it was no surprise how popular it became. (Some sources cite January 9th)
Paine wrote in common language, which the colonists enthusiastically read and understood. Using Biblical passages and principles, Protestant readers easily comprehended Paine’s characterization of government.
As with all the patriots at the time, men like Paine took their lives in their own hands to promote freedom from Britain. As a result, Paine published his booklet anonymously in the beginning. He appealed to Benjamin Rush for advice on who to trust to print his pamphlet. (see ) He suggested Robert Bell, who eagerly jumped at the project.
Paine began by arguing against the foundation of a monarchy. Turning to the Old Testament and the story of King Saul, he reminds his readers that God rejected the Israelite’s desire for a king. As God is our king, we should have no desire for an earthly one. Since the Israelites insisted God give them a king like the other nations had, Paine concludes monarchies originated from sin. He adds it was a practice condemned by the Bible and God.
“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.”
Some Americans wanted to remain loyal to the crown out of allegiance for protecting America. Paine believed otherwise. He suggested the king’s watchful eye was not for America’s benefit, but for that of Britain’s. He reminded readers of Britain’s own attacks against America while governing them with a strong hand. “Common sense will tell us, that the power which hath endeavored to subdue us, is of all others, the most improper to defend us.” (see , , , , , , and )
To emphasize his point, Paine asked the reader, “If Britain was the true ‘mother’ country, would a mother burden her children, and treat them badly?"
To further his case, Paine states, “Europe, and not England, is the parent country of America. This new world hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe. Hither they have fled, not from the tender embraces of the mother, but from the cruelty of the monster; and it is so far true of England, that the same tyranny which drove the first emigrants from home, pursues their descendants still.”
Paine adds under British rule, America could be called to war at the whim resulting in trade issues with other countries. All this without any representation from the colonies for laws and taxes in Parliament. (see ) Such power from a little island in Europe was completely unacceptable to Paine.
After dismantling the British monarchy and America’s need for it, Common Sense becomes the first written document to call for American independence from Great Britain. Paine presented the groundwork for the structure of an independent and free government. His argument became the framework of the written a few months later.
Paine writes, “I draw my idea of the form of government from a principle in nature, which no art can overturn, viz. that the more simple any thing is, the less liable it is to be disordered; and the easier repaired when disordered.”
With that, Paine outlines a government run by the people, not a monarchy.
“For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have the right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others forever, and tho' himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them.”
“For as in absolute governments the King is law, so in free countries the law ought to be King; and there ought to be no other.”
Paine described a representative government chosen by the people, not inherited by blood.
“This will point out the convenience of their consenting to leave the legislative part to be managed by a select number chosen from the whole body, who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would act were they present…that the elected might never form to themselves an interest separate from the electors, prudence will point out the propriety of having elections often; because as the elected might by that means return and mix again with the general body of the electors in a few months, their fidelity to the public will be secured by the prudent reflexion of not making a rod for themselves. And as this frequent interchange will establish a common interest with every part of the community, they will mutually and naturally support each other, and on this (not on the unmeaning name of king) depends the strength of government, and the happiness of the governed.”
According to Paine, government’s powers should be extremely limited. His writings inspired America, declaring the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. His new government would focus on “Securing freedom and property to all men, and above all things, the free exercise of religion, according to the dictates of conscience;…Whose peace and happiness, may God preserve, Amen.”
Many patriots, such as John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, worked with King George III for decades to resolve the issues between the colonies and the crown. (see and ) Diplomacy proved to be ineffective in persuading Parliament to allow American representation in Britain. Thomas Paine’s Common Sense put the final fire in both colonists and politicians to back the Revolution underway against Britain and join the patriots in their cry for Independence.
As Paine commented, “I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense.” His writings promoted freethinking and standing up for one’s principles. He promoted the freedom of all people, regardless of what station or class you were born into.
Paine’s pamphlet not only sparked a movement in America, it was also widely accepted in Europe. Following America’s Revolution, Paine returned to Europe to help France’s Revolution, producing another popular pamphlet, Rights Of Man. (see )
Common Sense sold upwards of 500,000 copies in its first year. In his effort to further America’s independence from Britain, Paine contributed all royalties from his book to George Washington’s Continental Army.
Liberty, our nation’s history is full of men and women unafraid to stand up for truth and principles. Progressives are desperately trying to erase the stories of these brave patriots, turning their heroic legacies into notorious tales. It is up to you, your children, and your generation to seek out the truth and share it as bravely as Thomas Paine did. And having a little common sense doesn’t hurt either.
That’s my 2 cents.
IT JUST TAKES