On page 4 of Thomas Paine's "Common Sense" reread the paragraph that starts with, “Men of passive tempers.” At the beginning of this paragraph, Paine mildly faults the supporters of reconciliation because they are “still hoping for the best.” However, by the end of the paragraph, his tone toward such people has drastically changed. Give an example of this change (text evidence), and explain how Paine accomplished such a dramatic shift in tone (what is his strategy?). 

Paine frames his argument in this way: the British are responsible for all of the suffering that Americans have endured during their efforts to subjugate the Colonies. Therefore, it is impossible for Americans to seek peace and reconciliation, since such a relationship would be morally wrong.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In this paragraph, Paine begins by claiming that these "men of passive tempers" hope for reconciliation with Great Britain out of a misguided faith in mankind and the historic ties between the Americans and the mother country. However, Paine claims that the relationship is past saving (and was never worth saving in the first place). Can Americans, he asks, reconcile with those who "carried fire and sword into your land?" He describes the death and suffering that Americans suffered during the war and asks those who have lost family or seen their property taken or destroyed if they can still then be friends with the British. Having framed his argument in this way, he challenges the man who still seeks peace and reconciliation by saying that he is "unworthy of the name of husband, father, friend, or lover" and that he has "the heart of a coward, and the spirit of a sycophant." These were serious accusations—calling someone a coward in the eighteenth century was an invitation to a duel—and Paine does not issue these epithets lightly. He is trying to underscore the outrages that he accuses the British of perpetuating to show that the relationship between the American colonies and the British is fractured beyond repair.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team