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Common Sense


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Pamphlet by Thomas Paine, published anonymously at Philadelphia (Jan. 10, 1776). At a time of rising passion against the British government, the work was the first unqualified argument for complete political independence, and helped turn colonial thought in the direction that, six months later, culminated in the Declaration of Independence. Over 100,000 copies were sold by the end of March, and it is generally considered the most important literary influence on the movement for independence.

The argument is presented in four parts entitled: “Of the Origin and Design of Government in General; with Concise Remarks on the English Constitution”; “Of Monarchy and Hereditary Succession”; “Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs”; and “Of the Present Ability of America….”The most cogent points of the closely reasoned discussion may be summarized in these extracts:Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom and security.… Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.… We have boasted the protection of Great Britain, without considering, that her motive was interest not attachment.… I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation to show a single advantage that this continent can reap by being connected with Great Britain.… Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe, and our imported goods must be paid for buy them where we will.… Everything that is right or reasonable pleads for separation. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of Nature cries, ‘tis time to part…. The republican form of government is the best because it is founded on the most natural principles.…’ Tis not in numbers but in unity that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world.

Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world; here too is the design and end of government, viz. freedom and security.… Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.… We have boasted the protection of Great Britain, without considering, that her motive was interest not attachment.… I challenge the warmest advocate for reconciliation to show a single advantage that this continent can reap by being connected with Great Britain.… Our corn will fetch its price in any market in Europe, and our imported goods must be paid for buy them where we will.… Everything that is right or reasonable pleads for separation. The blood of the slain, the weeping voice of Nature cries, ‘tis time to part…. The republican form of government is the best because it is founded on the most natural principles.…’ Tis not in numbers but in unity that our great strength lies; yet our present numbers are sufficient to repel the force of all the world.

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Subjects: Literature.


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Thomas Paine (1737—1809) author and revolutionary


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