Thomas Paine`s "Common Sense": On The Way To Independence

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The French and Indian War is also known as the Seven Years’ War, and it is vastly misleading in terms of its label. It was neither fought between the French and the Indians, nor seven years in length. This armed conflict lasted approximately nine years, and it reflects the extent of European colonialism, as England and France both claimed control over the Ohio River Valley solely to expand their settlements. The British acquire Canada and the land east of the Mississippi River following the ratification of the Treaty of Paris (1763), which officially ended the war. This, however, would result in tension within the colonies and British authorities, as Britain seized political control through unjustified regulations and increased taxes. The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military conflicts to set in motion the American Revolution, and the Second Continental Congress convenes shortly after. In response to these colonial grievances, the Olive Branch Petition and the Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms are drafted, and King George refuses to read either document. On August 23, 1775, King George issued the Proclamation of Rebellion and declares the colonies to be in an “open and avowed rebellion”.

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The lack of success in Thomas Paine’s early life strongly influences the ideologies described in Common Sense. Paine is a member of the working class where political involvement is suppressed, and this sparks his resentment towards the government. Benjamin Franklin encourages Paine to emigrate to Philadelphia which will, unknowingly, set the course for the revolution. Paine composed the pamphlet Common Sense two years after his arrival in the American colonies, and in a few months, it sold over 150,000 copies. Common Sense is written in a way that is easily understood by the average colonist, and Paine justifies his reasoning through “simple facts” and “plain arguments”. It is the first published work to advocate for independence and question the role of the monarchy which causes a shift from seeking reconciliation to the need to break free from Great Britain. This was met with significant controversy, and it resulted in the nearly immediate release of Charles Inglis’s The True Interest of America Impartially Stated, in Certain Strictures on a Pamphlet entitled Common Sense. Inglis, on the other hand, takes a different approach and addresses the advantages and drawbacks of both situations. In the end, Inglis claims letting the nation succumb to a “republican’s scheme” will lead to unnecessary bloodshed and eventually its downfall.

Thomas Paine embraces simplicity in Common Sense. He maintains a consistent argument and reveals his desire to strive for independence and establish a democratic republic. Paine accomplishes this by dividing Common Sense into four sections which are each backed up with logical reasoning. Paine emphasizes the tyrannical reign of Great Britain will never relinquish its hold over America. The colonists are in dire need of a government that will represent them and insist they are entitled to the right of secession. The act of reconciliation is no longer a viable option, and if we are to do so, we are submitting to the “ruin of the continent”. Regardless of the eighteenth century being defined by the Enlightenment, Common Sense has a plethora of biblical references to support Paine’s argument which denounces the divine right of kings. This is seen when Paine indicates, “Such a power could not be the gift of a wise people, neither can any power, which needs checking, be from God; yet the provision which the constitution makes supposes such a power to exist”. Charles Inglis preserves a traditionalistic perspective, and he utilizes an emotional alliance to explain the importance of loyalty to Great Britain. Inglis considers the colonists to be British citizens who must unify with the mother country to restore peace and cease bloodshed. Be that as it may, the principles in the colonies have drastically changed, and they develop a new “American” identity as a result of the tensions with England. The thought of independence was unheard of in this period, and Inglis sustains his argument using present factual evidence. The mending of the relationship with Britain would reinstate trade which would provide the colonies with high-quality manufactured goods and Britain with raw materials. It would also ensure the protection of trade as Britain had the most powerful naval fleet at the time. Paine and Inglis fail to agree on a variety of affairs and refute each other’s evidence. This is demonstrated when Inglis states that the belief of a “paradisiacal” period will follow declaring independence would be foolish thinking. The colonists must view the dilemma as a whole and ponder the actuality of what their actions will mean not only for their future but for America. On the contrary, Paine is convinced that despite of reconciliation, the connection will no longer be the same and the colonists must forge their path.

After thoroughly reading the documents, my understanding of the subject reached a compromise of both viewpoints. The American colonies existed exclusively to provide for the mother country in terms of natural resources and as a source of revenue. The colonists had no representation in government, and the implementation of unjustified regulations only further intensified their resentment. However, the struggle for independence was a nontraditional approach, and it would mean innocent blood would be spilled. The issues presented are relevant today, as there are still countries under colonial rule. Puerto Rico, for example, follows the United States federal law after the American victory in the Spanish-American War, and it is considered a commonwealth territory. Furthermore, Spain is in a current national conflict with the region of Catalonia over independence. Catalonia’s autonomous regional government was suppressed under the regime of Francisco Franco which has led to heated debates concerning seceding from Spain. Inglis’s pamphlet would serve to reflect upon the outlook of their consequences. Nevertheless, Paine’s Common Sense would help spark the rebellions that will push for freedom, as Catalonia can cut ties with the abusive mother country, Spain.

Heavily influenced by Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the delegates of the Second Continental Congress constructed the Declaration of Independence which was vigorously debated. It underwent eighty-six changes including the removal of the slavery cause. In its final draft, it listed the grievances to the King and specifies the natural rights of the people. This was truly a turning point in history, and the American Revolution had reverberations across the globe that would lead to the world we know today.

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