How can you compare and contrast the Declaration of Independence and Common Sense?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The most obvious comparison is that the Declaration and Common Sense have the same core message, namely that the American colonies, in the words of the Declaration, "are, and of right ought to be, Free and Independent States." The Declaration bases this claim on Lockean natural rights, which, it argued, governments were established to preserve. When governments ceased to do so, they lost their legitimacy, and could be replaced by governments founded upon the consent of the people. Paine made the same case in Common Sense, a pamphlet that explicitly made the case for independence. Paine, indeed, went further, arguing that the English constitution itself was illegitimate, as it was ultimately founded on neither the consent of the people nor reason. Monarchy was ultimately not reasonable, as, Paine memorably wrote, the "FOOLISH, the WICKED, and the IMPROPER" might succeed to the throne through no virtue of their own. The chief differences between the Declaration and Common Sense, published early in 1776, before independence was declared, are in many ways stylistic. Whatever it became in American memory, the Declaration was intended to be, among other things, a sort of legal and philosophical brief for independence, and as such its language is steeped in soaring, sweeping philosophical statements. Common Sense, on the other hand, was in many ways a work of propaganda, with a broad appeal. It was written in the plain, acerbic, borderline earthy style for which Paine would be renowned. Paine did not mince words in excoriating the "King and his parasites." Along with appeals to reason, Common Sense is full of pathos, asking the ordinary American whose "wife and children" whom the British Army made "destitute of a bed to lie on, or bread to live on" whether they still felt loyalty to the Crown. "The blood of the slain," Paine intoned, cried "'TIS TIME TO PART." Paine also argued along economic lines that the colonies were held back by their association with the British. In short, Common Sense and the Declaration of Independence made a very similar case, but in different ways and using very different language.

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