In his enormously influential treatise "Common Sense," Thomas Paine laid out his rationale for the revolutionary movement that would more formally commence seven months later with the Declaration of Independence. In so doing, Paine was instrumental in setting the stage for that movement while at the same time advancing the cause of nationhood. In the third section or chapter of "Common Sense," titled "Thoughts on the Present State of American Affairs," Paine repeatedly writes in terms of a unified political entity known as America. Asserting that the time for armed revolt had arrived ("The Sun never shined on a cause of greater worth"), and that America had no better option than independence from England, the task Paine faced was to argue for the cohesiveness of an otherwise potentially unwieldy collection of colonies. As he wrote in this section, "Now is the seed-time of Continental union, faith and honour."
In making his case for national unity, Paine argued that America's only serious obstacles involved its compulsory ties to England; that, absent those ties, America would face untold peace and prosperity. Trade among nations, he argued, would ensure those developments absent affiliation with the English Crown. Paine emphasized, however, the heritage common to the colonists:
"This new World hath been the asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty from every part of Europe."
With this observation, Paine was acknowledging that opposition to England was not in and of itself the basis of a lasting nation, and that the continent's inhabitants had much more in common that an English heritage. Rather, it was the struggle common to all of America's inhabitants, having emigrated from many regions, that united them as a single country. America transcended England. As he further observed,
"The Reformation was preceded by the discovery of America: As if the Almighty graciously meant to open a sanctuary to the persecuted in future years, when home should afford neither friendship nor safety."
National unity was, for Paine, the sine qua non of America's struggle against what it now considered foreign tyranny. It was in this vein that he continued:
"But the most powerful of all arguments is, that nothing but independence, i.e., a Continental form of government, can keep the peace of the Continent and preserve it inviolate from civil wars."
While not exactly prescient in this latter observation given the next century of American history, Paine was convinced that America's survival was dependent upon its ability to form and sustain a level of unity that would secure it against all threats, foreign and domestic. As he continued to argue for national unity and a sense of statehood, Paine asserted that the colonies had, to date, exhibited such proper conduct with respect to the notion of a Continental (read: "centralized") government, that a future of domestic tranquility was already assured once free of the yoke of English imperialism.
The shared heritage of the colonies' inhabitants—escape from religious and political persecution—provided the glue that would hold the center. Paine understood that a successful revolution, and a successful era of independence, were contingent upon a shared sense of nationhood, and it was in the third section of "Common Sense" where he advanced this argument most forcefully.