Thomas Paine's Common Sense

Thomas Paine's Common Sense

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  • You should write a pamphlet about independence.
  • Sounds like a good idea.
  • You can't publish this pamphlet! It's about independence!
  • This pamphlet is about independence!
  • Dr.Benjamin Rush encouraged Paine to write a pamphlet on independence, though he cautioned him not to use that word.   
  • Are you in favor of independence?
  • No! I am very loyal to the king of England.
  • The subject of independence was just too hot for many publishers to handle. As Paine noted at the time, colonists were so attached to Great Britain that it was “a kind of treason to speak against it.     
  • The king is the royal brute of England!
  • The idea of independence made many colonists uneasy. They might complain about British rule, but the prospect of separating from Great Britain scared them. It did not scare Paine, though.
  • The colonists should have their own self-governing nation!
  • Paine recognized that the main obstacle to independence among colonists was their continued loyalty to the king and crown. So he set out to demolish that loyalty. As one Paine biographer wrote, “Common Sense could be considered the first American self-help book, the help being for those who could never imagine life without a monarch.”   
  • Paine began by ridiculing the notion that kings had some special, God-given right to rule over their subjects. He called the king the “royal brute of England” and said, “Even brutes do not devour their young, nor savages make war upon their families.” He linked the problems of life in the colonies to the evils of British rule and argued that Americans would be much better off on their own.
  • Paine argued that the colonists should unite around a common goal, to create a self-governing nation based on principles of liberty. 
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