discuss the content, style, and timing of thomas paine's common sense.

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gsenviro | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" is a forty-eight page pamphlet, written in 1775-76, that motivated and inspired american people to fight for complete independence from Britain.

Content: 

The note consists of four sections and discusses the need for a democratic government, the format for a democratic government in the US and reflections on the future potential of the country. The first section "Of the origin and design of government in general, with concise remarks on British constitution" discusses the need for a government. Paine used a simple example of how a small group of individuals can live without a government, however, when the group grows larger, it needs a leader and laws. In the second section "Of Monarchy and Hereditary succession", he goes on to describe how leadership has been assigned as a "birth-right" to a chosen few, without any consent of the general public and how such a system is almost dictatorial in nature (or one step removed from it) and that it goes against nature that has designed all men as equals. The third section "Thoughts on the present state of American Affairs" argues that complete independence is the best solution and also suggests formulation of a Continental Charter by elected representatives from all colonies and how a president can be elected from among them and how a system of elected representatives will sustain itself. The final section "On the present ability of America, with some miscellaneous reflections" details how america can use its strength to gain military advantage. 

Style:

Unlike other scholars and writers, Paine did not use Latin phrases or difficult words; he used very simple language so that everyone can understand him, including those who cannot read themselves. Additionally, he used biblical references to emphasize his ideas and managed to connect to common people. The simplicity of narration and language ensured the blockbuster success of this piece and made it one of the all-time bestsellers.

Timing:

The timing of this document could not have been better. Americans were seething and preparing for war. However, they were not sure about the final demand: total independence or more rights. This work argued for total independence from Britain and struck the right cord with the populace. In fact, George Washington had the document read to his entire army. The pamphlet was also distributed heavily by newspapers and was commonly read at town meetings and gatherings. In fact, it is believed to be the single most incendiary document in the history of revolution and led to the American fight for independence from Britain in 1776.

Sources:

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