How does this work exemplify what is American? We may as well assert that because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat, or that the first twenty years of our lives is to...
How does this work exemplify what is American?
We may as well assert that because a child has thrived upon milk, that it is never to have meat, or that the first twenty years of our lives is to become a precedent for the next twenty. But even this is admitting more than is true; for I answer roundly, that America would have flourished as much, and probably much more, had no European power taken any notice of her. The commerce by which she hath enriched herself are the necessaries of life, and will always have a market while eating is the custom of Europe
This passage represents the independent spirit and individualistic thinking that was American in the Colonial days of this country. Like many others in his time, Thomas Paine came to America to make a new start; therefore, he was resentful of any unnecessary controls put upon him and his countrymen since the idea was to break from the former life of Europe.
Since America was and still is a great agrarian country, bountiful in its riches, Americans feel that this country can flourish on its own. The Midwest, for example, is known as the "Bread Basket of the World." Thus, as Paine states, she will "always have a market while eating is the custom...."
The tone of this passage also presages the "Manifest Destiny" concept of the U.S., the concept of a national purpose and destiny. While "Manifest Destiny" led to the expansion of the continent, the concept also reflects the ideas of independence and power of resources that Thomas Paine understood.
Thomas Paine was, in many ways, an unlikely person to play a decisive role in American history. He was a recent immigrant, having arrived in Philadelphia in December 1774. He was an unsuccessful British corset-maker, who had also failed in England as a tax collector and a teacher. While still in London, he met Benjamin Franklin, who provided Paine with contacts in Philadelphia, which proved crucial as he settled into his new home.
Paine quickly became a member of Philadelphia’s chattering class, writing for local newspapers. Paine embraced the resistance movement. He arrived five months before shots rang out in Lexington and quickly immersed himself in the rebellion. By late 1775, he decided to summarize his arguments in a pamphlet entitled "Common Sense."
The passage you cite reveals the enduring power of his langauge derived from grandiosity. Paine spoke in the kind of universal language that would soon be found in the Declaration of Independence. He saw the resistance to the king and Parliament as part of a world-historical struggle against tyranny. Paine believed that America could be an “asylum” for liberty. Paine drew directly on his understanding of history, which in his mind represented an effort to find a secure haven against tyrants bent on depriving people of their rights.