Paine’s Common Sense

Thomas Paine wrote a pamphlet,  “Common Sense”, with a third edition published February 14, 1776. It was very influential to the Revolution and Paine donated his profits to the American war effort.  The following points are well made and generally unequivocal: 

1. Government is the most common persecutor of mankind, but “a necessary evil” against human vice. “…man would need no other lawgiver; but that not being the case, he finds it necessary to surrender up a part of his property to furnish means for the protection of the rest; and this he is induced to do by the same prudence which in every other case advises him, out of two evils, to choose the least.”

2. Representative government of those, ” who are supposed to have the same concerns at stake which those have who appointed them, and who will act in the same manner as the whole body would act were they present. (This seems particularly violated today, as our politicians are largely rich, famous and out of touch with the voters they represent.)

3. Anyone permanently in power, as a King, may fall into corruption. Therefore, “a 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.” (Term limits were thought to hold inherent virtue.)

4. Problem of a unified government machine with no checks or balance.

“…for as the greater weight will always carry up the less, and as all the wheels of a machine are put in motion by one, it only remains to know which power in the constitution has the most weight, for that will govern: and though the others, or a part of them, may clog, or, as the phrase is, check the rapidity of its motion, yet so long as they cannot stop it, their endeavors will be ineffectual: the first moving power will at last have its way, and what it wants in speed is supplied by time.” (Do our three branches truly check each other against the people or simply establish a fight for power taken from the people.)

5. Problems with a monarchy are enumerated and summed, “Of more worth is one honest man to society, and in the sight of God, than all the crowned ruffians that ever lived.” (Isn’t this true of all politicians.)

6. This cause of Liberty is infinite.

“The sun never shined on a cause of greater worth. ’Tis not the affair of a city, a county, a province, or a kingdom, but of a continent—of at least one eighth part of the habitable globe. ’Tis not the concern of a day, a year, or an age; posterity are virtually involved in the contest, and will be more or less affected, even to the end of time, by the proceedings now.” (Is liberty in America still important for the world.)

7. Divine will may be seen in events that populated America. ” The [Protestant] Reformation was preceded by the discovery of America, as if the Almighty graciously meant to open a sanctuary to the persecuted in future years, when home should afford neither friendship nor safety.”

8. Freedom a world-wide cause. 

“O ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only the tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted round the globe. Asia and Africa have long expelled her.—Europe regards her like a stranger, and England hath given her warning to depart. O! receive the fugitive, and prepare in time an asylum for mankind.” (Tyrannical forces still seek to eliminate a place of freedom on earth.)

9. Prophetic observation 

“We ought to view the building a fleet as an article of commerce, it being the natural manufactory of this country. It is the best money we can lay out. A navy when finished is worth more than it cost, and is that nice point in national policy in which commerce and protection are united. Let us build. If we want them not, we can sell, and by that means replace our paper currency with ready gold and silver.”

10. Religious distinctions among Christian faith are not harmful and must be protected. A prime objective of Government.

“As to religion, I hold it to be the indispensable duty of government to protect all conscientious professors thereof, and I know of no other business which government hath to do therewith. Let a man throw aside that narrowness of soul, that selfishness of principle, which the niggards of all professions are so unwilling to part with, and he will be at once delivered of his fears on that head. Suspicion is the companion of mean souls, and the bane of all good society. For myself, I fully and conscientiously believe that it is the will of the Almighty that there should be a diversity of religious opinions among us. It affords a larger field for our Christian kindness. Were we all of one way of thinking, our religious dispositions would want matter for probation; and on this liberal principle I look on the various denominations among us to be like children of the same family, differing only in what is called their Christian names.” (How is this effected by a secular government which seeks to eliminate all judeo-christian expression in the public arena.)

11. An opportunity without precedent. 

“It may not always happen that our soldiers are citizens, and the multitude a body of reasonable men; virtue, as I have already remarked, is not hereditary, neither is it perpetual. Should an independence be brought about by the first of those means, we have every opportunity and every encouragement before us to form the noblest, purest constitution on the face of the earth. We have it in our power to begin the world over again. A situation similar to the present hath not happened since the days of Noah until now. The birthday of a new world is at hand, and a race of men perhaps as numerous as all Europe contains are to receive their portion of freedom from the event of a few months. The Reflection is awful [the thought is awe-inspiring]—and in this point of view, How trifling, how ridiculous, do the little paltry cavilings [petty objections] of a few weak or interested men appear when weighed against the business of a world.” (Are the consequences worth preserving.)

Summation for unity:

“Let the names of Whig and Tory be extinct; and let none other be heard among us than those of a good citizen, an open and resolute friend, and a virtuous supporter of the RIGHTS of MANKIND and of the FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES OF AMERICA.

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