The Case for Independence: Thomas Paine’s Common Sense

1. Introduction

Thomas Paine’s Common Sense was published in January 1776, just as the American Revolution was beginning. The book was an instant bestseller; in the first three months, 120,000 copies were sold in America and another 500,000 in England. In the words of one historian, it was “arguably the most important work of political propaganda ever written.”

Common Sense made the case for independence from Britain, which Paine saw as an oppressive monarchy that taxed the American colonies without represented them in Parliament. He also argued that independence was inevitable: “The completeness of our separation from Great Britain must happen, and that sooner than perhaps we at present conceive.”

In addition to making the case for independence, Paine also discussed America’s relationship with the rest of Europe. He predicted that America would soon become a great power in its own right, and he cautioned against getting involved in European wars. “There is something exceedingly ridiculous in the composition of monarchy,” he wrote, “it establishes an accidental and arbitrary power over people, amidst whom it cannot be known where legal authority ends.”

2. The Case for Independence

In Common Sense, Paine made the case for independence from Britain by arguing that the British government was oppressive and that independence was inevitable.

Paine began by noting that the British government taxed the American colonies without represented them in Parliament. This, he argued, was unfair and unjust. Moreover, the British government had imposed taxes on the colonies without their consent, which violated their natural rights.

Paine also argued that the British monarchy was an oppressive institution that needed to be abolished. He noted that monarchies were based on “the accident of birth” rather than merit, and he argued that they led to “tyranny and oppression.” He also warned that if the American colonies remained part of Britain, they would eventually be dragged into European wars.

Paine concluded by arguing that independence was inevitable: “The completeness of our separation from Great Britain must happen, and that sooner than perhaps we at present conceive.” He also predicted that America would soon become a great power in its own right, and he urged Americans to take advantage of this opportunity to create a new form of government based on liberty and equality.

3. The Necessity of Government

In addition to making the case for independence, Paine also discussed the need for government. He began by noting that “government is a necessary evil,” and he argued that it is needed in order to protect life and property.

Paine also argued that government is needed in order to promote the common good. He noted that without government, society would be “in a state of nature,” which would lead to “war, famine, and death.” Moreover, he argued that government is necessary in order to safeguard liberty and ensure that everyone has an equal opportunity to pursue happiness.

4. The Inevitability of American Independence

Paine also predicted that America would soon become a great power in its own right, and he cautioned against getting involved in European wars. He argued that America had a unique opportunity to create a new form of government based on liberty and equality, and he urged Americans to take advantage of this opportunity.

5. American Relations with the Rest of Europe

In addition to making the case for independence, Paine also discussed America’s relationship with the rest of Europe. He predicted that America would soon become a great power in its own right, and he cautioned against getting involved in European wars. He also warned that if the American colonies remained part of Britain, they would eventually be dragged into European wars.

6. Conclusion

In conclusion, Paine’s Common Sense was a powerful work of political propaganda that made the case for independence from Britain. Paine argued that the British government was oppressive and that independence was inevitable. He also discussed the need for government and predicted that America would soon become a great power in its own right.

FAQ

The social and political context in which Common Sense was published was the American Revolution.

Paine's work contributed to the American Revolution by arguing for independence from Britain.

Common Sense differs from other works of political philosophy in its direct and simple style, as well as its focus on practicality over theory.

Paine's argument for independence from Britain is based on the idea that government should be based on the consent of the governed, and that Britain has violated this principle.

Some criticisms levelled against Common Sense include the charge that it is too simplistic, and that it relies too heavily on emotion rather than reason.

Different commentators have interpreted Common Sense in different ways, but most agree that it was an important work in supporting the case for independence from Britain.

There is nothing particularly timely or relevant about re-reading Common Sense today, but it remains an important work of political philosophy